Love is in the air in Switzerland, and florists and sweet sellers are rubbing their hands with delight as the Swiss flock to buy all manner of bouquets and chocolates to demonstrate their undying devotion to their beloveds.
"Valentine's Day has become the most important day for the flower business in Switzerland," says Res Lehnherr, boss of Fleurop-Interflora Switzerland. "Last year was the first time that turnover was bigger than on Mother's Day."
Fleurop-Interflora chalked up sales of close to SFr80 million ($48 million) from February 12 to 14 last year.
Lehnherr says equal numbers of men and women tend to buy flowers from shops around Valentine's Day. But he says that men account for three-quarters of the purchases made over the Internet.
"We think that for men it's much easier to buy on Internet than in a flower shop. The favourite flower on Valentine's Day is the red rose, but there's also been an increasing demand for spring bouquets."
Most of the flowers sold in Switzerland are either grown locally or come from France, Italy and Holland, says Lehnherr, with about 20 per cent from South America and Africa.
For Thomas Glatz, who runs a bakery and chocolate shop in Bern, Valentine's Day is an important occasion in terms of business. Sales of chocolate products around February 14 have increased by between 10 and 20 per cent in recent years, he says.
His champagne truffles are particularly popular, as are the heart-shaped chocolate bonbons and cakes.
Another Bernese chocolate-maker, whose family has been in the business for three generations, is Hans Tschirren. "We were the first chocolate factory in the world to sell chocolate products over the web. Our main customers are in the United States, the Far East and most recently in Saudi Arabia."
He echoes Thomas Glatz' observation that chocolate sales around Valentine's Day have been increasing - at a rate of about 20 per cent a year - making the occasion second only to Easter or Christmas in terms of revenue.
by Paul Sufrin