NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- The more than 100 Nestle Toll House Cafe by Chip franchises have been ready for Valentine's Day for at least a month. "This is a big day for us -- huge day," says Ziad Dalal, president and founder of the premium dessert concept store and cafe. "We are all about desserts, so it's a great opportunity for our business to service our customers with gifting and indulging," Dalal says. "The nice thing is that you can do it for all budgets . You can do a small love note with a cookie and customize it with a decoration on it to your loved one for less than $10 or you can buy a full-sheet cookie cake or heart-shaped cookie cake. It's a beautiful time because it's a very personalized holiday that can be for a loved one or the family."
As consumer confidence picks up, Zalal is expecting this year's Valentine's Day in particular to be very profitable for the cafes, which were created back in 2000 through a co-branding agreement with Nestle. "Our goal is to be north of a 15% increase for the same holiday. We're already at 17%," he says, comparing sales with this period last year. From restaurants to florists to specialty chocolate shops, Valentine's Day is a bright spot for small-business coffers even in the dark days of winter. Small-business owners have even more opportunity to benefit from Valentine's Day this year. The National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend a whopping $17.6 billion on Valentine's gifts and activities for friends, family, loved ones, even their pets. According to a January survey, consumers on average will spend $126.03 for the holiday, up 8.5% over last year and the highest amount in the survey's 10-year history, the NRF says. "As one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, it's encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. "Anticipating high foot traffic in the coming weeks, retailers have replenished their inventories and will entice eager shoppers with great deals on everything from special menu items at restaurants to clothing to flowers and, of course, chocolates."