Sales expectations are down this Valentine's Day: Constant Contact

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Fewer retailers are expecting strong sales this Valentine's Day, according to a Constant Contact survey.

According to Constant Contact's second annual Small Business Valentine's Day Outlook survey, 37 percent of U.S. small business owners anticipate a strong 2007 Valentine's sales season, down from 55 percent in 2006.

"Our theory is that there is a general feeling of disappointment among small businesses for the past holiday season, and thus small businesses have reflected this in their expectations for Valentine's Day sales," said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact, Waltham, MA.

Despite a decline in optimism for 2007 Valentine's Day sales, 64 percent of U.S. small business owners expect stronger online sales for Valentine's Day 2007. In addition, 53 percent plan to run special sales and marketing promotions, with online marketing methods largely favored over traditional print and advertising.

E-mail marketing ranked as the most popular method, mentioned by 66 percent of respondents, followed by other online methods including paid search and banner ads (32 percent), direct mail (16 percent), flyers (16 percent), and TV, radio and newspaper advertisements (12 percent).

In terms of anticipated business impact, 8 percent of small business owners expect sales on Valentine's Day itself to increase dramatically when compared to a normal business day, with expected sales increases ranging from 50 percent to more than 100 percent.

According to the surveyed small business owners, 85 percent of customers typically spend less than $75 on Valentine's Day purchases, with 53 percent of respondents expecting customers to spend less than $25.

Popular products that are expected to sell this year include romantic staples. Fifty-one percent of businesses surveyed expected flowers to be a top seller, 18 percent ranked dinner, 15 percent choose jewelry, 14 percent chocolate and 2 percent clothing.

"This is very consistent with what we've seen in the past, and we expected to see these products sold during this season," Ms. Goodman said.

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