Traders in raptures for Valentine's Day

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LOVE makes money. Infatuation is worth a few bob as well. In olden days a Christmas stocking was looked on as profitable shopping, but these days (heaven knows) anything goes.

'This year we're putting hearts on anything,' said one London shop manager last week, pointing to his range of underwear, cuddly toys and chocolates. 'It's the only way to beat the recession.'

This year's - today's - St Valentine's Day is the most commercialised ever. We have Marks & Spencer's word for it. 'We are treating this as the biggest Valentine event ever,' said a spokesman, once again quoting the recession as the cause. 'We've got hearts on socks and special tables in every shop showing a romantic Valentine's menu.'

The number of cards bought has risen from 15 million in 1990 to 17 million in 1992. The Greeting Card and Calendar Association predicts that 19 million will be sold this year. This year will also see the arrival of the pounds 15 red rose - or a pound a petal. Some London florists have trebled their prices. The most expensive roses at The Flower Shop, in Tottenham Court Road, cost pounds 50.50 per dozen - a 90.57 per cent mark up. The florists say that they are being 'held to ransom' by the wholesalers. Christine Linskey, of House of Flowers, in west London, blames her 140 per cent increase for a dozen red roses on a shortage of flowers. 'We get all the flak, but the growers hold the flowers back to make a quick buck, and we have to pay for it,' she said.

And, of course, nearly every national newspaper has a message of love in the classified ads from a person called Squidgy. Whether there is one from the original cannot be known.

Real Life, page 22

Leading article, page 24