February 14 is a tough day to be single. Celebrated as the day of love, which in today’s parlance is all about gifting as an expression of that love, Valentine’s day has become a huge industry in itself with spendings reaching upwards of $20 billion routinely for the day. This year it is expected to see a 4.1 per cent year-on-year increase.
According to the latest figures released by the National Retail Federation, which has been researching Valentine's Day spending since 2004, this year expenditure is expected to be $27.4 billion, a 32 percent increase over last year’s $20.7 billion spendings.
Valentine’s Day History
Valentine's Day dates back to the 5th century and was initially marked to honor the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. He supposedly married lovers when it was banned for some time under the Roman Empire. Another myth is that he was imprisoned for helping escape Christians in Rome and fell in love with the jailor’s daughter to whom he sent the first Valentine.
The love element was added by a tale by Chaucer in the Middle Ages about the mating of lovebirds and the day marking the onset of spring.
Valentine Day became a regular celebratory event from the 18th century onwards with exchanges of written notes, cards and flowers among lovers.
The day may have started as a way to celebrate love, but at present, it has become more significant for the retailers and the consumerism that it fuels with all the hype surrounding it.
Valentine’s Day Spending
According to the latest figures released by the National Retail Federation, which has been researching Valentine Day spending since 2004, this year's expenditure is expected to be $27.4 billion, a 32 percent increase over last year’s $20.7 billion spendings.
“Valentine’s Day is a sentimental tradition, but gift-giving can be driven by the economy,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Consumers spent freely during the 2019 winter holidays and they appear ready to do the same in the new year. The same strong employment numbers and higher wages that boosted holiday sales should make it easier to spend a little extra to say ‘I love you’ this year and to spread the gift-giving beyond just your significant other.”
Valentine in Numbers
The NRF research says that 55 per cent of people said they would be celebrating the day, up from a low of 51 percent last year. On average, people will spend $196 on buying gifts.
The biggest share of spending on Valentine's day will go to the significant other at 52 percent.
People spending on coworkers has increased to 7 percent, and pets also figure significantly on this day with almost 27 percent saying they will be buying something special for their furry best friends. In money terms, the business that will be transacted for pets will translate to nearly $1.7 billion.
Children’s classmates and teachers also figure in this list of gift buying with an average spend of $15.
The biggest spenders will be in the age group of 35-44, disbursing more than $350 on average, and men will be the bigger purchasers compared to women.
Valentine Day gifts generally center around candies and chocolates, flowers, lingerie, jewelry, clothing and special outings like dinner dates and spas.
In money terms, according to the NRF statistics:
- Shoppers, 21 percent, plan to spend $5.8 billion on jewelry.
- 34 percent will spend $4.3 billion on an evening out.
- 20 percent will spend $2.9 billion on clothing.
- 52 percent will splurge $2.4 billion on candy.
- 37 percent will buy $2.3 billion worth of flowers
- 19 percent will purchase gift cards worth $2 billion.
- And 43 percent will spend $1.3 billion on greeting cards.
- Gifts of experience such as tickets to an event or a trip to a spa are wanted by 41 percent and planned by 28 percent, says the survey.
Online shopping has become quite a popular option for purchases but the survey shows that departmental stores are still scoring ahead with 36 percent saying they will visit one to pick up gifts. Online shopping comes a close second at 32 percent, tying up with discount stores.
People spending on coworkers has increased to 7 percent, and pets also figure significantly on this day with almost 27 percent saying they will be buying something special for their furry best friends.
Commercialization of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s day is the most significant shopping day between Christmas and Easter. With people tightening their purse strings after the splurge of Christmas shopping, this is a good way to recover from the dip in-retailer spending.
Over the years, the day has become a commercial fest with advertisers and media bombarding you with how to make the day special for your loved ones. And with emotions getting tangles with economics, it has become all about expressing it through gifting and spending.
Companies and retailers make massive profits every February, and this Hallmark Holiday curates the best way to spend your money to prove your love. A 1994 study says that men “found that though they primarily associated a feeling of love or friendship with Valentine’s day, a sense of obligation was a close second”.
Flowers are the most common token of expression of love but come February this becomes the most expensive commodity. The answer is the old demand and supply equation.
More than 250 million roses are produced for Valentine's day, according to estimates from the trade group Society of American Florists.
The rush for flowers creates logistics problems and the cost of getting them to the market just rocket up. They need to be refrigerated and transported in fresh mint conditions, which drives up the cost. Orders for the flowers need to be placed three months in advance. The cycle from ordering to delivery is months long, which drives up the prices In the Netherlands, the biggest exporter of flowers to the US, auctioning takes place for orders.
For the United States, the biggest supply of flowers was from Colombo and Ecuador in 2019.
Candies and Chocolates
It is the number one gift of choice for Valentine's day and nearly 80 percent people spend money on chocolates on this day in the United States. In 2018, candies and chocolates did a business of $1.8 billion according to the National Confectioners Association (NCA). This year too, the numbers are expected to be similar.
Valentine's day and jewelry gifting go hand in hand. It is a popular day to get engaged; hence there is a significant spike in sales in this period. An average engagement ring spend is around $3400, according to the DeBeers group, and roughly 10 percent of couples choose this day to formalize their relationship.
Besides Valentine's Day economics, it is a popular day among people. Another survey done by Zulily and One Poll says that 4 in 5 Americans get excited about the day.
If you do not want to go with the flow and say it with flowers and candies, there are other ways of expressing your appreciation—time well spent with the loved ones doing something everyone enjoys like cooking a meal, watching a movie or going on a picnic. A kind gesture like fixing neglected chores will go a long way in earning you the love bucks.
Or do what most Americans (69 percent) plan to do on that day, say, “I Love You.”