Friday, February 13, 2009
Friday 13 February 2009 (18 Safar 1430)
Red rose ‘price index’ shows Valentine’s spike
Sultan Altamimi & Omar Mohamed | Arab News
RUDDY SEASON: Valentine’s Day flowers and teddy bears are displayed at one of the upmarket gift shops in Jeddah on Thursday. (AN photo)
JEDDAH: The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice intensified its vigilance over flower, chocolate and gift shops to confiscate items related to Valentine’s Day, a perennial crackdown on a holiday perceived by many to be both Western and immoral.
Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, head of the commission’s branch in Makkah province, said the agency has instructions to eliminate any activities aimed at celebrating this event or sell products related to it.
“This is based on the teachings of Shariah. God ordained Muslims to celebrate their own festivals in place of un-Islamic ones,” he said. “So Muslims are not allowed to celebrate any festivals other than Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.”
Arab News toured a number of shops selling flowers, chocolates and assorted gifts. All but one of the stores avoided any hint in their displays of merchandise that Valetine’s Day is tomorrow.
But money talks even if most shopkeepers don’t: The price of red roses have gone up as much as 10 times the regular price, indicating a demand.
“We ordered thousands of these Indian red roses this morning,” said a Filipino florist in Jeddah who only wanted to be named Armando. “By tonight, the roses will be sold out.”
The price of one red rose is typically SR5, he said. The price starts at SR10 running up to Valentine’s Day. As the stock is depleted, the prices rise to as much as SR50. Armando says he sells full arrangements of 200 roses for SR2,000.
“It is not even Saturday night yet and people are coming in and buying these items,” he said. “This is a season of love and appreciation, so buyers come here to purchase these items for these reasons.”
The religious authorities tend to look out for red items sold in these stores, viewed as an attempt by merchants to market the holiday. However, one shop in Jeddah was found to be openly selling red flowers and stuffed toy animals.
“Red flowers are sold throughout the year,” said the shopkeeper, who only went by the name Fadi.
By tomorrow his roses will be selling for SR50, or 10 times his usual price.
Another flower shop owner said that from his perspective Valentine’s Day is simply one of year’s peak retail seasons. This shopkeeper, who didn’t want his name published, said customers come to him with special requests, or they bring in their own stuffed animals or poems to deliver with the flowers.
In many cases florists keep and arrange bouquets behind the scenes or in separate, undisclosed locations.
Prices of chocolates, too, have risen at specialty shops. At one shop in Jeddah an assorted box of chocolates that normally sells for SR150 was selling for SR200. And though commission members are looking out for signs of Valentine’s Day merchandising, it was possibly to find heart-shaped red boxes of chocolate.