As many businesses continue to shake their heads over how tough it is to make sales in these financially difficult times, "cheaper is better" is the strategy of the day, with shops slicing prices for everything from "gyudon" (beef on rice) to jeans.

But one thing consumers — especially female ones — will loosen their purse strings for are those little drops of heaven that are sure to melt their darlings' hearts come Feb. 14, say chocolate retailers, whose customer-oriented strategies have seen both luxury brands and affordable sweets fly off the shelves at equal speed.

With Valentine's Day chocolates being subjected to numerous trends in recent years, from kits to make sweets at home to salt-flavored treats, orthodox quality brands face tough competition. But they remain popular among women who can't resist foreign craftsmanship and delectable flavors, if the Salon du Chocolat international chocolate show is anything to go by.