25 October 2016
As this year's Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday, men have all the more reason not to buy flowers. Even billionaire Lau Ming-wai doesn't buy them. Photos: HKEJ
As this year's Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday, men have all the more reason not to buy flowers. Even billionaire Lau Ming-wai doesn't buy them. Photos: HKEJ

Valentine’s Day: Will love pass the test of a downturn?

Depending on your mood, or state of finances, it’s either a boon or a bane to be celebrating Valentine’s Day in Hong Kong.

For as vividly described in the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s website, Valentine’s Day is this city is celebrated three times a year:

“Beneath its hard-and-fast exterior, Hong Kong is hiding a pretty soppy heart, evident in its celebration of not one but three festivals for lovers – the informal ‘Chinese Valentine’s days’ (both the Spring Lantern Festival and Seven Sisters Festival) and its better-known Western parent, St. Valentine’s Day.

“Therefore, if you came to escape the world’s gift-giving mania of 14 February, tough luck! Expect festive fun for romantics city-wide, with restaurant specials for couples, and wine and roses aplenty. There are romantic surprises all around town.”

However, for those who are selling all kinds of goods and services for lovers, this year’s celebration may not send their hearts aflutter — what with tumbling stock markets, the city’s unsettling political atmosphere and the weak retail sentiment.

In fact, it could prove to be the worst Valentine’s Day in a decade.

First of all, Feb. 14 unfortunately falls this year on a Sunday, which is even worse than Saturday last year, from a flower shop owner’s perspective.

That’s because most flower shops thrive on a normal working day, when smartly dressed office girls and female students are proud to be seen carrying bunches of roses in the streets and on public conveyances, with or without their suitors or lovers tagging along.

Valentine’s flower orders were not great last year, thanks to the prevailing five-day week. This year it is even worse, according to a floral shop in Central, who saw a 50 percent drop in pre-orders.

The bad thing is that a bunch of roses is unlikely to go below HK$1,000 despite the weak demand because the price is dictated by the cost of importing them from overseas.

Ditto for the Valentine’s dinner. We have not heard anyone complaining about not having been able to book a table for two at their favorite Michelin-starred restaurant.

In fact, those who have done so are assured of a much more romantic ambience because many restaurants now consider themselves lucky if they can get their joints half full. So that means it’s just you and your lover enjoying the cozy, dim atmosphere without hearing someone slurping borscht at a nearby table.

Blame it on the calendar. Sunday 14th would be the day for many return flights to Hong Kong after the long Lunar New Year break, and the eve of the official working day in China.

Even if they return to Hong Kong before dinner, it is more likely that they will prefer to stay home after the trip rather than spend the night eating out somewhere. And, of course, no flowers.

Besides, guys can cut expenses for flowers and dinners by saying that they just took the advice of Lau Ming-wai, son of Joseph Lau Luen-hung and winner of a “male god” contest organized by RTHK.

Lau said he has never bought flowers on Valentine’s Day due to price surges and he prefers to cook at home to mark the special day.

Thanks to American Express, we were told that an average Hong Kong person would spend HK$1,900 on this romantic day.

You’d think that would account for the flowers or a dinner for two. But according to the credit card company, the top Valentine’s Day expense is for car-leasing.

We suppose that takes care of the ride to the Peak or Repulse Bay.

Anyway, after years of commercial hype on how to make Valentine’s Day memorable, perhaps we should make good use of this downturn to reflect on what love really is.

As Dalai Lama says, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

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EJ Insight writer

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