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F'te of the heart

Eighteen-year-old Saimantika is all set to celebrate Valentine's Day with her boyfriend. And her friends. The Class XII student has planned lunch and movie with her boyfriend in the afternoon. In the evening, the pair will meet up with their friends ' all couples of course ' and go for adda to a coffee shop.

'Valentine's Day is about celebrating love. Everyday is Valentine's Day for people in love, but this is a day when you can actually celebrate it,' says Saimantika, who has saved up all her pocket money for months to buy her guy a gift ('a perfume or a T-shirt'). Earlier, her mother used to take her out for a meal. 'She gives my father a present, usually a CD of love songs, but they don't really celebrate,' adds Saimantika.

Red roses flown in from Bangalore, books on relationships to revive some of the old magic, teddy bear cakes, Juicy Lips chocolates, heart-shaped torches, diamond solitaires'

With the young and yearning as prime targets, the Valentine's Day marketing juggernaut is rolling into town with a deafening clamour. All to embolden Calcuttans to say 'I Love You' ' or rather shout it out loud.

If the diamond is a woman's best friend, it can also be the worst enemy of her Valentine's wallet. But to cushion the budget blow to the boy ' or man ' most jewellery houses have swung into V-Day mode, offering 'low budget' varieties of the gem.

It's a different matter that the sizes and cuts of the stones wouldn't really impress, unless you are a die-hard believer of the saying 'small is beautiful'. 'A diamond is a diamond, however small,' is the argument presented in favour of these tiny baubles.

If Anjali Jewellers is launching a special Hum Tum collection for the festival of love, with gold rings, chains and pendants, they have a range of diamond rings, pendants and earrings starting from as low as Rs 1,000. 'This is the fourth year we will be launching special Valentine's Day jewellery and they have always been major hits. I would say, after Dhanteras, this festival sees the maximum footfall at our store,' announces Anargha Chowdhury, director of Anjali Jewellers.

And who's queuing up to buy these sparkles' Believe it or not, it's school students, mostly from Class XI and XII, and college-goers, who would hardly spend on jewellery at any other time of the year. 'We definitely have buyers from all age groups, but it's surprising to see students buying so much jewellery during this time as gifts. The low pricing makes it a good gift option for them,' feels Chowdhury.

Trendsmith, a diamond jewellery store housing various brands, is hosting a necklace festival for a week to cash in on the February 14 festive buying spree. But it's with those diamond pendants, bracelets, earrings and rings, starting from Rs 1,500, that it plans to lure GenY.

As does the Floating Diamonds line of Gold Factory in Gariahat. A pendant made from a heart-shaped thin plate of transparent acrylic with a diamond stud in the centre, priced at Rs 950, is the hot V-Day offering here. 'The range is very young and peppy and the predominant theme is the heart shape,' says designer Brinda Ganguly Sirkar.

Play it by the book

Ever wondered Why Men Can't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps' Because Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Two reasons why books with relationship tips do well as Valentine's Day gifts.

Crossword has stocked up on relationship books and love songs this season, knick knacks apart. 'Books on relationships do well at this time. The older age group prefers to gift books and CDs, the younger lot likes soft toys. The nominally priced stuff does well,' says owner Sidharth Pansari.

Among the book offerings with the flavour of the moment is the For My Valentine series, with quotations and poems, priced between Rs 40 and Rs 300. The compilations include CD sets like Sealed with a kiss, Because I love you and the series Love is' (Fun, Passion and Sensual), collections of old Hindi numbers. The buyer age group ranges from 14 to 32.

The smallest gifts are moving fastest at Shoppers' Stop, on Elgin Road. Keychains adorned with little soft toys are flying off the shelves. 'The expression of emotions has become more subtle. Huge teddy bears and large red satin hearts are not so much in demand,' says unit head Naveen Misra. The store has recently sent back big soft toys priced at Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000, since they aren't selling.

'We will be stocking up on palm-sized soft toys with little messages on them,' adds Naveen. The small ones are sometimes used as carriers for diamond pendants. 'People just put a diamond pendant around the neck of a tiny teddy bear and gift it,' adds Naveen.

Orange and red are all the rage at Cotton World. 'We save up all our red and orange pieces for this time of year, since these two shades move really fast during Valentine's week,' says Kamna Saraf, owner of the store in Forum. While the women like to flaunt the feminine look and buy more skirts, the pop picks among men are party shirts. 'Usually, couples come in together and buy gifts for each other. The Valentine mood prompts them to go for the colour of the season,' feels Kamna.

Roses are red, sugar is sweet

Saying it with flowers never really goes out of fashion. Be it a single rose or a bouquet of blooms, red rules. At Ferns & Petals, on Loudon Street, roses, lilies, carnations and artificial flowers are in demand, but mainly in the colour of love. 'Anything red is an instant hit. It need not be restricted to roses. People are queuing up for all kinds of flowers and gifts. Even red grass could be an option!' says owner Indira Agarwal.

Plants and Flower Boutique, on Shakespeare Sarani, has red roses flown in from Bangalore every day. Priced at Rs 10 per bloom, the biggest takers are teens.

'Valentine's Day used to be a time when boyfriends would present roses to their girlfriends. Today, it has spread wider, into each family. Children giving their parents flowers or siblings giving one another flowers is commonplace,' says manager Nitin Gharwra.

Cakes, cookies, candies, chocolates' Time to indulge the sweet tooth with a little love. At Just Desserts in City Centre, the female fraternity has been busy. 'The wives and the girlfriends are placing most of the orders this time. The cakes ordered are small, with cute decorations. Red and white are the predominant colours and chocolate is the favoured flavour,' says Divya Jalan, owner of the outlet.

Cute chocolates in varied shapes are in huge demand at Candy Treats, in Forum and City Centre. 'Chocolates are selling more than candies this year. Cute shapes are favourites with the youngsters,' says Manjari Tibrewal. Clear Hearts, Juicy Lips, Red Lips and Friendship Rings are some chocolate shapes that are hot bites this year.

International brands like Ashbury, Soft Caramel and Hazelnut have launched special chocolates for Valentine's Day, available loose, priced between Rs 60 and Rs 80 per 100 g.

Heart-shaped chocolate cakes are the eternal rage during Valentine's Day, says Lovey Burman of Kookie Jar. 'We sell loads of them on February 13 and 14. We also get orders for special cakes for two people and for theme parties. Last year, a couple ordered the whole dinner menu and wanted everything to be heart-shaped, from starters to desserts.'

School kids and newly-marrieds are the main buyers, but even kids buy gifts for parents. 'Valentine's Day has been extended from the lover to anyone you love,' she explains. The Rawdon Street store has even come up with a line of Dalmatian cakes with 'You have a spot in my heart' message. 'After Christmas and New Year, Valentine's Day registers maximum sale of confectioneries,' says Burman.

There's romance in the air all right, but above all, the V-Day wave is a toast to marketing muscle and peer pressure. Hitting the market with new products for Valentine's Day is a move to jack up sales in an otherwise dull season, says Jayasri Mohanka, general manager, marketing, Eveready Industries. 'Seasonality' is a challenge to marketers out to increase the number of peaks on the sales curve. That explains why Valentine's Day has assumed such importance.'

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