COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— For many, Valentine’s Day is all about purchasing gifts, giving flowers, and going out to dinner. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 2023 is one of the highest spending years on record for Valentine’s Day. In 2022 consumers spent $23.9 billion on Valentine’s Day. This year they’re estimated to spend an additional $2 million, totaling at $25.9 billion.

One customer that has been coming to Kilwin’s on Broadway for eight years told News 3 what her favorite part of the Valentine’s holiday is.

“The flowers, the balloons, and all the love. Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday of the year,” Lashawnda Smith said.

Tuesday, she made her second trip to Kilwin’s for Valentine’s Day. “I actually picked up two caramel apples Sunday to take to work, and my mom got jealous. She called me today and said, ‘can you pick me up two to take to work?’ So, that’s why I’m here today.”

For local and individually owned businesses, Valentine’s Day means preparing for an increase in customers. In a typical week, Kilwin’s sees about $10,000 in sales. The week of Valentine’s that nearly triples. They see anywhere between $25-$30,000.

Many Columbus businesses have already been feeling the Valentine’s rush, and they only anticipate it to carry on throughout the rest of the week.

“Valentine’s Day is absolutely our busiest day of the year. Christmas is pretty busy as well, but it nothing quite compares to Valentine’s Day. It is busy all day long. From the time we open in time we close and it’s busy before and after,” Kilwin’s Team Leader Christina Caraway said.

Caraway says Kilwin’s has already sold more than 100 pounds of chocolate covered strawberries, and the sales they get from Valentine’s Day helps them meet their annual goals.

Co-Owner of The Black Cow, Denise Stickney, says Valentine’s is one of their busiest holidays. She says customers typically buy more drinks to accompany their meals on these special occasions.

“The cocktails are really selling very well. It’s something that our guests might not normally purchase during a normal dinner, but now they’re trying the drinks, trying the desserts and things like that. So, it’s definitely helped,” she said.

Many businesses in the Uptown area say this year’s calendar placement of Valentine’s Day is also boosting their sales.

“A lot of our businesses do automatically see an uptick in businesses on the weekends. With Valentine’s Day being on Tuesday this year, a lot of our businesses are very excited that they’ll see a large increase in their sales and customer count today,” Uptown Columbus Director of Communication and Marketing Tracey Green said.

“The good thing about Valentine’s Day is it’s during the week, so we stay pretty busy. But since Valentine’s Day fell on Tuesday, it really helps us with business. It’s bringing in more crowds. Everyone’s talking about going out and eating. So, we’re really pleased with the uptick and how many people are coming in. We saw it yesterday as well,” Stickney said. “Tuesday is our slowest day of the week, we expect that today and tonight will be just as busy, if not busier, than what we have on the weekend.”

She says many of the customers coming in to eat this week are locals. One couple that grew up in Phenix City and Columbus, Sarah Daniels & Charles Franklin, spent Valentine’s at The Black Cow, the same restaurant they had their first date.  

“Since they’ve rejuvenated downtown, it’s just beautiful. We feel actually safe, and I love all the restaurants. I’d invite anybody to come downtown and eat,” Daniels said. “There’s a lot of restaurants to choose from,” Franklin added. The two were also celebrating Daniels’ birthday, which also happens to fall on Valentine’s.

According to the NRF, consumers will spend an average of $14 more this year versus last. Local businesses anticipate sale numbers to continue to grow in Columbus with its continued expansion.

The Hampton Inn just opened last week, adding 93 more rooms to the several other hotels like Hotel Indigo, AC Hotel, Marriott Columbus and City Mills Hotel. In addition, more than 220 apartments are currently being built in a mixed-use development on the intersection of Broadway and 13th Street.

“Having more people in Columbus actually come out and support small businesses means a lot… the more people that come out, walk around and stop, the more we are building it up. Especially like putting new businesses out, like across the street, the hotels and everything. The more people come out, the more they build it up,” Assistant Manager at Rocket Fizz Sydney Weaver said.

Many businesses tell News 3 they started to feel the influx of customers and sales this past weekend. The Black Cow saw 40 more customers than they typically do on a weekend, which is already their busiest time of the week. The Columbus staple seats 78 customers at a time.

Many restaurants and shops downtown have special holiday deals and promotions going on throughout this week. Click here for the full list.