Forecourts are an increasingly popular destination for Valentine’s Day gifts, according to new research released today by delivered wholesaler Palmer and Harvey.

Sales of sparkling wine, boxes of chocolates and flowers increased significantly at petrol stations nationwide in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day last year – and forecourt retailers expect more of the same this year.

The analysis by Palmer and Harvey, which supplies around 70% of the UK’s forecourts, found that petrol stations sold 28% more sparkling wine, 31% more boxes of chocolates and up to 150% more flowers in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day last year.

Convenience and time constraints are high on the list of reasons to shop at petrol stations and a separate survey of 1,000 men by Palmer and Harvey found that one in five buy their Valentine’s Day gifts from forecourts.

Martyn Ward, managing director, commercial and sales at Palmer and Harvey, said: “In our fast-paced society, consumers are increasingly looking for a quick, easy and convenient way to pick up what they need, on the go. Today’s petrol stations meet that demand by offering a suitable range of groceries as well as gifts such as chocolates, wine, cards and flowers.

As well as selling fuel, forecourts are often the local convenience store to those who live nearby, so it is not surprising to see them growing as destinations not just for last- minute buys, but also for everyday shopping and special occasions.”

Sparkling wine showed the biggest increase in sales ahead of Valentine’s Day thanks to its growing popularity as the drink of choice for special occasions, according to Palmer and Harvey. In recent years, austerity has seen many shoppers ‘trading down’ from champagne to sparkling wine, while feeling they are ‘trading up’ from still wine. This is reflected in the figures which show white and rose wine sales only increased by 3%, whilst red wine sales decreased by 5%.

The research has provided greater insight into consumer seasonal spending at petrol stations. For example, Palmer and Harvey’s own analysis confirms that boxed chocolates had the highest increase in sales at Easter time of 41% last year, while sales of condoms rocketed by 30% at Christmas.