Appeared in Business in Vancouver – February 11, 2014
Love – hold on, don’t flip that page and go back to the serious stuff of business! Staring at the yo-yo of stock prices. Sweating whether the descending dollar will be good or bad for your sales.
Because love is business (especially on Valentine’s Day, honouring the Saint of All-Box, No-Chocolates). Mankind’s biggest business, I’d argue if I were the argumentative type. Getting into it, getting out of it, everything in between. The bachelor’s love nest – are the terms “bachelor” and “love nest” still afoot? – and the cosy suburban house. The uncosy mortgage, then the comfort of the only untaxed capital gain when you sell and hobble off together to the old folks’ home toward the inevitable sunset.
And ah, love’s fruit, the dear little lisping children, who grow relentlessly through teen years to adults, perhaps unwisely taking arts courses and accumulating unmarketable knowledge, sometimes returning for shelter under mom and dad’s roof, but who often lovingly stand by them in their golden years.
I once related to my growing children Mark Twain’s observation, roughly: “When I was 14, I thought my father was a fool, but when I became 21, I was surprised at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” The kids didn’t get it. I’ll spring it on them again, now that they’re in their mid-20s. Maybe they still won’t get it.
And also – terrible that ardent young love can curdle to bitter hatred – there’s the possibility of divorce, cheerful business for lawyers, counsellors, private detectives and others. Cue Oscar Wilde: “The only difference between a caprice and a lifelong passion is that the caprice lasts a little longer.”
The roving husband we know well. But the wife tempted to stray might ponder La Rochefoucauld’s dry maxim: “A husband without faults is a dangerous observer.” Corrective to such cynicism, fondle the five most romantically perfumed love words in captivity, Voltaire’s “Paris is where you are.” (All of the above plucked from memory, by the way: searching quotation indexes under “love” is cheating.)
Statistics Canada’s bean-counters, romantics to the digital fingertips, don’t break down Valentine’s Day’s contribution to the GNP (Gross National Passion).
But merchants can draw useful conclusions from StatsCan figures, all for 2012:
Retail sales, jewelry and watches, $3.34 billion; cosmetics and fragrances, $2.48 billion; women’s lingerie, sleepwear and intimates, $1.58 billion. StatsCan also lists the figure for men’s underwear and such, but I’ve never thought male Y-fronts had much allure.
It also reports that those living as couples – those all-important economic units – number 15.72 million, well above the 11.78 million living alone, including the never-married, divorced, separated or widowed.
The media’s unflagging promotion of same-sex marriage suggests that homosexuals are eagerly beating at the doors of matrimony. Hardly. In fact they represent 0.8% of all married couples, with only 64,575 such families in 2011, just 21,000 more than at the start of the first full five-year period when same-sex marriage became legal all across Canada.
“You can’t hurry love,” The Supremes grandly sang, but hurrying love into marriage is economically desirable. Above all, though, love is deeply personal.
A thoroughly married man in his 70s, his broken heart mended so often it looked like a road map of Connecticut, recently mused aloud – upsetting family with an uncharacteristic confessional – that it troubled him to think that never again would he fall madly, helplessly in love. Of course, this stable but passionless future is touching. But more than that: bad for business. No chocolates, no lawyers.
Estimated business of romance sales for 2012 in Canada
$3.34b Retail sales, jewelry and watches
$2.48b Cosmetics and fragrances
$1.58b Women’s lingerie, sleepwear and intimates
© Trevor Lautens, 2014