by Sara Mead
I’m not that much of a fan of Valentine’s Day. Do I want my boyfriend to take me to an overpriced, overcrowded, fixed menu that has none of the best dishes the restaurant normally serves just because it happens to be the day that some ancient Christian martyr–we’re not even sure which Valentine he was!–was buried in Rome more than 1700 years ago? Not especially. More importantly for me, Valentine’s day has a lot of crappy candy associated with it. Conversation hearts? Does anyone actually enjoy those? Heart-shaped boxes of inferior chocolates? I’ll pass, thanks. Fun-dip Valentine’s kits for kids to take to school and exchange with their friends? Okay, those are pretty awesome. But I digress.
While I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day itself, the day after Valentine’s Day is a major holiday in my book. That’s because it’s the day that grocery and drug stores mark their supply of leftover Valentine’s candy down by 50%, and i can buy bags of pink and red M&Ms for $1.50, and stock up on the supply of red hots that I’ll need (but not be able to find anywhere!) come Christmas to decorate my cookies and rice krispy treat trees. In the past, I’ve had to rush to take advantage of this glorious day, because traditionally it’s followed about one day later by the removal of all unsold Valentine’s Day candy from the stores’ shelves to make room for another one of my favorite holidays–the day stores move their stock of vastly superior Easter candy onto the shelves. I could insert an extended discussion here on my love of Cadbury mini-eggs, malted milk eggs, and best of all, bags of all-black licorice jelly beans. But that’s for another post.
Except, this year, it didn’t go down that way at all. A week after Valentine’s Day, I was wandering the aisles of a local CVS, looking in vain for Easter candies, which I eventually found sitting in large, unopened cardboard boxes at the back of the store, while only normal and leftover Valentine’s Day candy graced the stores shelves. Standing there, seeing the enormous boxes of delicious Brach’s Jelly Eggs there in front of me, but not being able to actually get at them, I almost cried. Last Sunday, I stopped in a CVS near my house, to find a similar situation: Un- or just opened boxes of Easter candy blocking the candy aisle as the store’s staff–4 days after the start of the Lenten season!–had just begun stocking Easter candy on their shelves. And, while the CVS stores near my home and office have finally gotten around to putting their Easter candy on the shelves (with one very, very unfortunate omission, which I’ll discuss in a forthcoming post), they still seem to have tons of Valentine’s Day candy and other assorted items sitting about, now forlornly marked down to 25%, and in some cases even 15%, of their initial costs. Valentine’s Day candy on the shelves this long after Valentine’s Day?
Honestly, this is something that in all my years of candy fandom I have never seen before. I have only one possible explanation: The economy. In some ways, this makes sense: Maybe the bad economy has caused people to spend less money on heart-shaped boxes of chocolates for their sweethearts. (Although this seems a little odd to me: I’d think that if anything folks would be backing off the more expensive Valentine’s Day observances, such as fancy dinners and flowers, and substituting heart-shaped candy boxes for them. But what do I know?) Certainly, I can understand why the economy might prod some parents to substitute cheaper homemade kids’ valentines for the store-bought ones (another item that’s still, bizarrely, on the shelves of my CVS–who’s going to buy kids’ valentines in March? Even if they are marked down 85% and the economy sucks?). But I don’t really understand why it’s preventing the stores from eventually cutting their losses on these products and moving them out to make room for more delicious Easter candies that people–like me!!!!–actually want to buy.
The best thing about the glorious season of seasonal candies that stretches from early October through Easter is the fact that it’s largely unbroken: As one seasonal candy goes off the shelf, it’s replaced by the next one. And since the candies go on the shelf right after the previous holiday, you have the glorious expectation of looking forward to peppermint nougats, or red hots, or black licorice jelly beans, or whatever seasonal candy delight floats your boat. But this year, with the continuation of Valentine’s Day candies on the shelves long past the actual date, and the slowness of stores to replace them with Easter treats, that’s all been shot. I know the economic situation is exacting a terrible toll on our country. But if there was one thing I thought would be safe, one thing I thought would always be there to give me comfort through good times and bad, one thing I would have been sure to bet was if anything counter-cyclical–it would have been candy. It’s cheap. It’s familiar and comforting. It gives you a quick feel-good rush. And it goes great with another counter-cyclical product, movies. But apparently, I was wrong.