Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

14 February 2014

Teddy bears, chocolate truffles, candy hearts, greeting cards – you name it. For the past few weeks, every corner of New York City has been sprinkled with heart-shaped designs, red ornaments and semi-naked cupids that shoot arrows across the street from one vitrine to the next, aiming for the single passers-by.

Today is Valentine’s Day. If you live in the US or follow the American tradition, the next 24 hours will be dedicated to celebrating an existing relationship or making every possible effort to be in one. It might also be your last shot at mending a broken heart.

In the city, men will run in and out of subway stations carrying boxes of chocolates and bouquets of red flowers while women head to hair-dresser appointments and queue at nail salons for a last-minute manicure. Restaurants tonight will be full, bustling with red-cheeked patrons sipping on bottles of bubbly at tables for two. Theatre, ballet, opera and cinema tickets will be sold out.

It’s no secret that Valentine’s Day is a great day for business, but this year’s numbers will make your heart pound: according to a study released by the National Retail Federation, the total spending expected today will be $18.6bn (€13.6bn). American Express anticipates the figure to be double that. And of the total predicted expenditure, a whopping $1.9 billion (€1.4bn) will go to buying flowers – which is great news for Latin American cultivators.

Over the past 10 days, love has been in the air – quite literally. Ninety per cent of the flowers arriving into the US for today’s festivity landed at Miami’s international airport, mainly from Colombia – which contributed 60 per cent of the total – but also from Ecuador, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Brazil. Up to 24 daily cargo flights carried 95 million fresh buds (that’s 2,300 tonnes of flowers) that are now spread across the country and have reached as far as Canada thanks to 500 courier trucks dedicated exclusively to delivering them.

Luckily for me, Colombia has over 7,000 cultivated hectares of flowers and although florists were running low on roses – some offered me chrysanthemums and carnations as a replacement – I managed to get my hands on a freshly cut dozen. My girlfriend in Bogotá should be receiving them anytime soon.

Santiago Rodríguez Tarditi is Monocle’s New York bureau chief.

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