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Candy everybody wants on Valentine's Day

By Megan Workman

The Peanut Shoppe's customer count will double on Thursday, as wives walk in to buy their husbands chocolate-covered peanuts and the men stroll in later in the day for the same reason, the shop's owner said this week.

Adam Kimble, the store's third-generation owner, said his Capitol Street shop will sell more chocolate-covered peanuts than anything else on Valentine's Day. The popular treat is stashed in either a red or white Valentine's Day-themed box or a round tin decorated with hearts.

Dark chocolate-covered almonds are a close second favorite on the hearty holiday, Kimble said. Lines will also form in the roasted peanut-scented shop for orders of pounds of Jelly Belly jellybeans, French Burnt Peanuts, Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids.

More than half of gift givers this year will buy candy, spending $1.6 billion on sweets, according to the National Retail Federation.

Valentine's Day shoppers will spend $18.6 billion in total on candy, cards, clothing and more, the NRF said.

While candy is the most popular present, another one-third of buyers will give flowers and nearly 20 percent will adorn someone with jewelry.

"We see a 20 to 25 percent increase in sales during Valentine's Day, which drags on throughout the week," Kimble said, sitting near trays of Boston Baked Beans and Hot Tamales. "There's something about sweets and candy that people [correlate] love and sweets. Giving candy is a nice thing to do."

Candy is an easy gift to give, said Susan Smith, spokeswoman for the National Confectioners Association. It's also part of a tradition, she said.

"Seasons are very important to the candy industry and candy sales because it's what is part of a tradition on Valentine's Day, this wonderful gift-giving occasion," Smith said. "Everybody has a favorite candy. If you love somebody, chances are you know what their favorite candy is. Shopping for something you know you can specialize is fun."

About 71 percent of the candy sold on Valentine's Day -- the fourth largest candy-selling holiday behind Halloween, Easter and Christmas -- is chocolate, Smith said.

Holl's Chocolate's two busiest days of the year are the day prior to and the day of Valentine's Day, said Laura Ray, retail manager for the shop's Charleston Capitol Market location.

The Vienna-based company sells hundreds of pieces of milk and dark chocolates, truffles, and more in its deluxe assortment boxes, the most popular Valentine's Day gift, she said.

The chocolatier makes chocolates especially for the holiday of love, including heart-shaped candies. The boxes themselves come in the shape of a heart or a square, which can be customized with a message and personally selected chocolates, Ray said.

Holl's employees understand the need for chocolate and the rush to get them on Valentine's Day, she said.

"People will be waiting for us to open the door...our [foot traffic] will more than quadruple Thursday," Ray said. "Every year we end up with some guy running through the parking lot as we close and we'll stay open for him. There will be a line of at least 20 men at a time waiting to buy chocolate."

To cater to the crowds, Ray said every Holl's employee will be working Thursday.

There are 72,000 employees who work in sugar and confectionary product manufacturing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In 2000, there were more than 92,000 workers, but that number dropped by 22,600 jobs in 2010. The Department of Labor predicts that only 2,400 jobs will be lost in the candy industry from 2010 to 2020.

Smith said the dramatic decrease in jobs from 2000 to 2010 was a result of the high prices of ingredients. Some chocolate companies have expanded to Canada and Mexico, she said.

"The price of ingredients are pretty high and sometimes high compared to other countries' prices," Smith said. "Some manufacturers have left the U.S. because of the cost of sugar and there could also have been some consolidations. If companies have moved or merged because of the cost, then maybe that would have slowed [job growth]."

Business hasn't slowed at Holl's, which had record-setting sales during Valentine's Day last year, Ray said. Chocolate is just a universally pleasing gift, she said.

"You don't have to water it and you don't have to clean it. With jewelry you have to know sizes and what styles they like. With chocolate, you eat it and enjoy it and that's it," Ray said.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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