• Great Multipliers
SAINT Valentine’s Day generally referred to as Lovers’ Day has come and gone, but the echoes still resonate in the underground economy. Held on Sunday, February 14, event centres and organisers, eateries, printers, gifts shop owners, hoteliers and others started feeling the heat of the day from Friday, February 12, as clients inundated these small scale service providers with calls to ascertain that what they had booked for had not been given to other clients, and perhaps to a higher bidder.
This year’s lovers’ day was full of activities, as religious organisations, not-for-profit outfits and even bigger organisations created convivial atmosphere for the public to enjoy and spread feelings of love.
To make the day worth the while, some owners of small-scale ventures worked round the clock to provide services, as well as organise events for those that spent the day outside their homes.
According to Michal Arirah, a gift seller, this year’s Val’s Day was different from others, because it fell on a Sunday and a lot of religious centres keyed into it to preach love. She noted that with people spotting different shades of red clothes, the day appeared carnival-like.
“We sold out all our gift items, including bouquets of flowers that used to be bought by our European clients. All manners of art works were also sold. It was as if someone mandated Nigerians to buy and exchange gifts, ranging from art works to flower vases, drawings and books.
“Elderly men and women, including the youths came to ask for beads and other local crafts as gifts. Some even commissioned us to draw the images of their Vals on canvass. Though this was tasking, it was worth doing, because the charges for the drawings were quite different from what we charged at other times.
“We did some of the post card drawings between N2, 000 to N5, 000 and those on canvass went for as much as N350, 000. Despite the price, people were still queued up to have us do their life drawings,” he explained.
Simon Gbolade, an artist, recalled how the Valentine season provided extra income for his family. He disclosed that customers started calling him to design special cards for them from the first day of the Valentine week.
“I thought with telecoms short messages, the use of greeting cards would be a thing of the past, but I was proved wrong; because since the beginning of Valentine week, clients began coming to my shop for customised Val cards. They used cards beautifully adorned in Valentine colours of red, pink and white to express their emotions.
“The charges, however, varied depending on the size, number of colours used, quality of material, nature of the card and the personality involved. A simple chipboard card was sold for between N1, 000 and N2, 500. But despite their high cost, the demand was high because each spoke to the recipient and they were different from the every day card in the market,” he said.
Aside the gifts shops that raked in money, Madam Kafayat, a catfish farm owner, explained that the Valentine season was a big event for lovers and all sectors benefitted from it. She said though most activities revolved round hotels and relaxation centres, the event provided an avenue for other sectors to make money.
Explaining how she leveraged on the event, she said she supplied catfish to over 15 hotels, starting from the Friday that preceded Lover’s day to the main day, Sunday, February 14.
“They were not just buying their normal quantity, as they increased their demands and even paid 100 per cent in advance to get the stock. They knew full well that I would not disappoint, yet they paid in full to discourage me from supplying other people.
“Aside this category of buyers, small eateries were also not left out of the show. They placed orders for different sizes, even with the increase in price. I increased my price because I knew they would do the same. So, we all got our share of profit from the event,” she said.
On how much she made overall from the event, Kafayat revealed that the amount could be as much as N400, 000.
“If I add everything together, then I should be looking in the region of N300, 000 to N400, 000. Though this may appear small to some traders, but for me, it was a good profit from the one-day event,” she explained.
Madam Ngozi Ihekwe, who supplies dry fish, vegetables for spicing local salad and pepper soup, as well as ‘ugba,’ a fermented African oil bean seeds, said the week kept her on the road from Lagos to Aba, where she got her supplies. She had expected demand to be low, especially as the country is experiencing economic downturn and low money in circulation, but things turned out otherwise.
“Hoteliers and restaurant owners began stocking their stores in readiness for the day. Between Monday and Wednesday, I had sold out my wares for the month. It was as if they were buying in anticipation of scarcity. However, it was good for business, as I have restocked my wares and business continues. I wish the market would continue like this. I made good money from the event that can enable me take a month leave,” she said.
For Segun Adegoke, a beer depot manager, Valentine is one of the events everybody, irrespective of religious leanings participates in. According to him, different people participate in different ways, beginning from the family to social groupings and various relaxation centres.
Said he: “Val was one event we sold so a lot of drinks. Operators of relaxation centres feared that depots would run out of drinks, especially as this year’s Val fell on a Sunday, which meant celebration for some people began on Friday. This meant three days of fun-filled gathering. So they had to stock their stores to avoid disappointments at the depots.
“From Monday to Sunday of that week, I sold drinks worth over N60m. Though we do have good sales during the Yuletide and other festive periods, Val remained the single event that has always increased our sales,” he explained.
As the culinary sector was getting its own chunk of the gains of Val, Ayodele Adeyinka, a printer and owner of a small packaging outfit said his sector was not left out of the gains.
According to him, printers participated well in the celebration through printing different fliers and making different sizes of paper packs and bags for social organisations and churches that were using the occasion to give back to the society.
“We were busy printing fliers for different organisations, including churches, who had different programmes for the day. Aside the fliers, we also designed different Val package for NGOs. Val kept us busy and also swelled our accounts.
“The event opened my eyes to different packaging designs, which before now, were unknown to me,” he disclosed.
Moshood Lawal, whose outfit is into shirt designing, however, noted that the economy is having a negative effect on the event. According to him, before now, his company used to produce different brands of T-shirts, but he could only do it for two not-for-profit organisations.
“Business is low. This year’s Val has been badly affected by the economy and I could feel it from the way clients brought their products. Last year, I printed over 100,000 tee-shirts for different organisations, but this year, because of the economy, I could only do about 8, 000 pieces for just six customers.”
While some traders complained of poor sales or low patronage, others in the beauty and fashion sectors are smiling to the banks.
According to Henry Peterside, a clothier, Val was the season of love and everyone, mostly the youths, saw it as an avenue to make new friends, impress lovers and rekindle lost relationship. This category of people bought clothes and shoes of different designs to express themselves on Val’s Day.
“I sold over 80 pieces of skirts, bikini, gowns and tops within the Val’s week. Each of the materials costs between N3, 500 and N5, 000. To my surprise, men constituted the greater buyers. Men, who bought these clothes, bought them for their wives or friends. The period brought more sales and we are grateful to God for it.
“Val has a charm that controls the people. And though I added N200, N500 even N1, 000 to sell the wears, the male customers bought the items without haggling,” he said.
Disclosing that the increase in sales was not only on female items, Nike Adetunji, who sells male and female items noted that men and women bought different gift items for their Vals.
According to her, most of her female customers were accompanied by their male partners. She explained that while the ladies made their choices, their partners did the haggling.
For Madam Florence Uke, event planner and manager, the period had its own challenges. She disclosed that part of these was the ability to handle all the events that came her way.
“I had to manage eight events in different locations in Lagos on Sunday and I needed close to 100 girls to help out, while I ran around to supervise. The major challenge was not just getting the events, but also being able to effectively manage them.
“Val was a huge event. For some people, it has turned to a cultural festival that must be celebrated. The over 100 girls I engaged received between N15, 000 and N25, 000 for their services and I still had some hundreds of thousand for keeps,” she said.
While the day lasted, commercial bus drivers, taxes, tricycles and commercial motorcyclist also had a field day, taking fun-seekers and lovers to different place of interests.
According to Jimoh Adelakun, a taxi driver, lovers moved about in large numbers.
“It was one of my busiest days and I had no regrets because I was well rewarded. I got thrice of what I normally make. May be because it was a Lovers’ day, most commuters did not haggle with me. Even when I tried to discourage them from entering my taxi, they still paid me without any hassles, he said.
Valentine’s Day has boosted some small-scale businesses