IT’S Valentine’s Day this Friday and for many, that means last-minute running around desperately searching for the ideal gift.

But for the suppliers, Valentine’s Day preparations began many months earlier.

For florists, gift shops, card sellers and the like, the day is just one of a long series of gruelling key days, from October through to March.

Jenny McHale, who runs Gallery Flowers in High Street, Whitchurch, explains.

“For florists its all about ordering, ordering, ordering – and being organised,” said Jenny.

“We have a mental five months in one block and it starts after the major wedding season, when we reach October getting to December.

“We order all the Christmas flowers and Valentine’s straight from our suppliers who deal direct with the growers.

“These growers you’ll find in Ecuadorian regions, Kenya, Columbia, Holland, Ireland and many more.”

As technology has developed, ordering in specialised products has become easier.

“We have an online system now where we can see the product – prices, weights, grades, lengths, place of origin and who the growers are,” added Jenny.

“We can now choose exactly what we need and in better quantities.

“As well as online systems, we still have the lorries driving over and deliveries from other local suppliers for sundries and flowers.

“It’s always busy and bustling, and good banter on the lorries.”

Jenny says that in all her experience of working as a florist, no Valentine’s Day has ever been the same.

“Valentine’s for us this year is in its 25th year and every year is different,” added Jenny.

“But in recent years we have educated the local men in a good bunch of flowers – I mean a beautifully arranged bouquet of roses, presented in a tasteful gift box.

“We love Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day, which takes us to the month of March and it’s like Christmas and Valentine’s combined.

“So when Valentine’s finishes we are preparing for Mother’s day, ordering flowers straight away, sundries and generally stocking back up.”

Jenny adds that every year is different, but every customer is different too, and catering to individual needs in the key to success.

“It never ends because also you need to cater for the everyday customers,” adds Jenny. “Whether it’s buying Auntie Sue a birthday bouquet, or a thank you to Debbie for all her hard work.

“Leaving bouquets, walk-in brides and funerals – everybody needs to be catered for.”

And as far as 2020 is concerned, there is still certainly love in the air, with business being as busy as ever.

“There has never been a pattern over the years, we have had busy years and quieter years,” Jenny explains. “But 2020 has started off very busy indeed in the new shop.

“We were a little worried with all the voting that people may be keeping their purses deep in their pockets but I do not think this is the case.

“There are lots of positive people about and keeping shopping local too which is amazing for the town, we really all need to stick together.

“And yes, lots of people still celebrate Valentine’s, its beautiful and romantic.

“We love the look on recipients faces when they receive the flowers. I love it.”

Meanwhile owner of Sentiments, Jayne Griffiths, says that while she still enjoys Valentine’s Day, the general support of the day is shrinking.

“We very much look forward to Valentine’s, as much as it will enhance the volume of customers,” says Jayne.

“I feel, as always, the volume is weather dependent, if it’s bad they will shop wherever they are, for example a supermarket.

“We have been severely diluted by the Card Factory, so have seen a huge decrease since their arrival.

“I don’t think it’s a season that is celebrated hugely and is shrinking year on year.

“Three years ago I did huge balloon business for the three Indian restaurants, hearts on tables and hundreds of decoration balloons. No orders this year.”