Valentine's gifts get practical during recession

If your sweetie buys you a sweater for Valentine's Day, just take it as a sign of his good sense in a tough economy that has left thousands out of work and underpaid.

While candy, cards and flowers are still popular, a new study shows more people are likely to go the sensible route this year, according to a poll from the National Retail Federation.

And that's OK, "as long as there is thought behind it," said USC retail professor Richard Clodfelter.

In other words, you don't want to just grab something off the sales rack. But if there's a soft sweater that would bring out the blue in her eyes and she can wear on her next job interview, you've hit pay dirt.

"Jackets are huge right now, and trinket items," said Katie Walsh, manager at Half-Moon Outfitters on Devine Street. She said men and women are buying their sweethearts a hat or gloves to get through this brutal winter and even camping gear so they can take a trip together later.

"We have a lot of guys coming in saying they want it to be 'Valentines-y' but still practical at the same time," Walsh said.

So, many are opting for a bouquet of smaller items that can be put to good use rather than a bouquet of roses, she said.

But romance has not completely flat lined.

Roger Patton, owner of Blossom Shop, said he is getting a steady stream of flower orders. But so far, people are spending about $10 to $15 less on arrangements than they have in previous years.

"We're not seeing quite the number of dozens of roses yet," he said.

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