Valentine’s Day is still two weeks away, but your local drugstore has probably been celebrating for a month. Most chain stores around the country start stocking Valentine’s Day candy right after Christmas, leaving the candied hearts and marshmallows languishing on shelves long before the rest of us think to buy them. So why do they do it? Is anyone buying Valentine’s Day candy in January?
“The big chocolate hearts, no. Those don’t sell until right before the holiday,” says Paul Minger, Walgreen (WAG)‘s category manager for confections. In fact, 70 percent of chocolate hearts sold at Walgreen are purchased within the last 48 hours leading up to Valentine’s Day. But Walgreen isn’t focused on chocolate hearts in January. It’s focused on everything else.
“In January we’re only merchandising bag candy, conversation hearts, exchange packs of cards that kids give each other in school, and single-serve seasonal items. Those sell early,” says Minger. People might not celebrate Valentine’s Day until Feb. 14, but that won’t stop them form impulse-eating a heart-shaped marshmallow when they walk in to buy some toilet paper in January.
The early advertisements do double-duty as a reminder to men that the holiday is coming. “Men are still buying most of the chocolate hearts, and we have to make sure that they remember the holiday is coming,” says Minger. That’s why chocolate sales boom when Valentine’s Day falls during a weekday: Men haven’t thought of a gift ahead of time, so they stop by the drugstore on their way home. If the holiday falls on Saturday or Sunday, guys have more time to consider dinner reservations, flowers, or maybe something that’s not clichéd. “But if it’s during the week,” says Minger, “our sales are higher.”
The stereotype, it appears, is true.