Chin Up in the Downswing: True Love Conquers All (or at Least This Recession)
by Anne Szustek
Americans are in the mood for love, as evidenced by recent strong sales in romance novels, online dating sites and chocolate.
Torstar, the company that owns romance novel publisher Harlequin, posted strong sales during fourth-quarter 2008, helping to push the company’s 2008 earnings up 11 percent and, while acknowledging the tough economic climate, sees “continuing stable results building on the success and growth of the last three years.” According to a report from the company published on The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic Monthly blog, “Overall, we anticipate Harlequin will deliver a fourth good year in a row.” Romance novels pulled in some $1.375 billion in sales in 2007. A possible reason for this, surmises Sullivan, is that the literary genre offers affordable escapism during the recession; it’s a form of entertainment with a reliably happy ending.
Online dating sites—presumably frequented by those intending to turn romantic fantasy into reality—have also reported an uptick in sales. According to The Economist, OkCupid.com and eHarmony have both reported increases in the number of hits on their sites, and traffic often shows a direct correlation to days of volatility on the Dow Jones Industrial Average. OkCupid head Sam Yagan told the news magazine that the number of instant messages sent on the site has tripled since September; unlike the paying site eHarmony, OkCupid is free and probably serves as a hub for people looking for “cheap entertainment.”
Thanks to the serotonin rush that often follows its consumption, chocolate has long been a go-to during romantic drought or just general sad times. Both at home and abroad, sales of chocolate and cheap candy have been brisk. “Sugar is comforting,” interior designer Raymond Schneider told The New York Times as he filled a bag of bulk candy at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York. “There’s nothing more stressful than growing financial insecurity everywhere.” Chocolate factories have mentioned similar trends. “We have not felt any repercussions from the economy," Diane Daffin, the vice president of Daffin’s Candies, told Youngstown, Ohio, ABC affiliate WYTV. At the same time, European sellers have reported that cheaper, nonpremium brands of chocolate have gained ground on higher-end Western European labels, suggesting a recession-conscious approach to purchasing sweets.