Valentine’s Niche: Say It With Beer and Beef Jerky?

Valentine’s Day sales don’t measure up to Christmas, but for some
businesses, the holiday is still pretty sweet.

On average, shoppers will spend about $126 each on loved ones
this year, up 8.5 percent from 2011 and the highest amount in the
past decade, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2012
Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey. Total
spending in the U.S. for the holiday is expected to reach $17.6
billion this year.

Roses and chocolate-covered anything aren’t likely to cede their
favored status, but some entrepreneurs are taking a chance on
more unorthodox gifts — from catering to men to creating offbeat

Here are three unconventional Valentine’s Day bouquets and a look
at their marketers:

Beef Jerky

Jacksonville, Ore.

They say the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,
so you probably can’t go too wrong with this beef-jerky bouquet
from Gary West Smoked Meats. The bouquet of one
dozen long-stem steak strips sells for $39 with no shipping

Paul Murdoch, co-owner of the meat smoker, says a “couldn’t hurt”
philosophy was the key ingredient to his burgeoning Valentine’s
Day operation. A former employee suggested the idea of making
seasonal bouquets using Gary West’s jerky in 2007. Though
skeptical at first, Murdoch says the marketing ploy proved to be
a boon for the business. Christmas still reigns supreme in
seasonal sales, but Valentine’s Day is a close second —
accounting for about 5 percent of annual sales, which totaled $2
million last year. “Valentine’s Day has become really
significant,” Murdoch says. “When we introduced this jerky
bouquet, I didn’t think it would do nearly as well as it has.”

Many people might not consider a gift of beef jerky very
romantic. But the quirkiness is part of the appeal. Fox News,
Cosmopolitan and other media snapped up the story, and orders
surged, Murdoch says. The company’s targeted use of Facebook
advertising has been especially effective. After the Cosmo piece,
Murdoch realized that his core customer is women in relationships
with men. “We’ll use Facebook primarily because you can target
that demographic so accurately,” he says.

Beer Bouquet

Austin, Texas

OK, giving the guy or gal in your life a six-pack surely doesn’t
sound very special. But what if it’s his or her favorite beer and
it comes in a bucket that says Happy Valentine’s Day with a big
red heart scrawled on the side? This six-piece beer bouquet,
which comes fully loaded with peanuts, a koozie and a bottle
opener, is $54.99, plus shipping.

After working in consumer packaging and graphics, Josh Horowitz
had something of an epiphany on a rooftop in New York City. Using
votive candle holders and empty beer bottles, he made his first
beer bouquet. After moving to Austin, Texas, in 2009, he launched
Beer Bouquet, which sells football and
seasonal-themed bouquets through the mail to 46 states. “It
was a no brainer,” Horowitz says. “Everyone has a favorite
team and everyone has a favorite beer. Plus, there was no real
go-to gift for guys, other than neck ties or a flask.”

Last year, Valentine’s Day accounted for roughly 25 percent of
Beer Bouquet’s sales of $75,000. Horowitz expects sales to ramp
up this year, as he creates new bouquets with more snack foods
like beef jerky and pretzels. He also plans a Groupon promotion
for Father’s Day, when he hopes to sell 5,000 bouquets.

Dirty Rotten

Los Angeles

While nothing says, “I love you,” like a dozen red roses, Roman
Sacke wondered what receiving a dozen dying roses would say. So,
he started Dirty Rotten Flowers to find out. The
company sells three variations of the oh-so-tragic bouquet,
starting at $25, plus shipping. The Valentine’s Day bouquet
called “I love you not” costs $27 and includes a tattered
teddy bear holding a red heart that says, “I love you.”

Sacke, who hails from the Czech Republic and now lives in Los
Angeles, calls the bouquets “silly” and “fun” and says they’re
meant in jest. “Where I’m from people have a different sense of
humor. They would like it,” says Sacke. He notes that many
customers send the bouquets to old bosses and ex-flames.

Dirty Rotten Flowers is actually an offshoot of Sacke’s more
traditional floral business. Like John D. Rockefeller who found
profitable uses for the byproducts of kerosene production, Sacke
has found a way to make a little money from his unsold flower
inventory. “In my regular flower shop, there were always so many
leftovers that would just die,” he says. “We began wondering what
you do with them, other than composting.” Sacke declined to
discuss his financial results, but he did say that last year the
company sold 300 to 400 rotten bouquets for Valentine’s Day,
which amounts to roughly $8,000 to $11,000. Not bad for dead

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