Zooming in on the Love Season of Valentine’s Day Spendings

American Valentine’s Day spendings tell us an entire story. One about how “handmade” and “heartfelt” slowly (but steadily) developed a business dimension. For sure, there’s still meaning in V-Day, for most of us. The core remained, but I do believe that significance grows beyond numbers and stats and candies.

Where do you find this meaning? you might ask.

Airports. The arrival terminals. That’s where you see the purest form of love.
Impatiently waiting on each other, shaky hugs and teary kisses, happiness to have missed and be rejoined. Yeah, that’s the real love I’m talking about. People arrive every day, not only on February 14th.

But if I were to choose a place to spend Valentine’s Day, I’d do it in an airport. A large one. At the arrival terminal. And after we’ve fed our souls, if we feel like feeding our bodies too, there are restaurants in airports, as well. So, instead of going out for the usual (and overrated, if you asked me) dinner in the city center, I’d definitely go for a truly meaningful celebration, for once.

Speaking of dining out, that always brings out the commercial aspect of the conversation of any celebration. Marketers create compelling stories about how proof and tokens of love sweep your sweetheart off their feet. Factor in presents, candies and greeting cards and you’ve got yourself the loveliest of Valentine’s Day Spendings budget right there.

The Generalities of Valentine’s Day Spendings

So, to be even more specific, according to NRF, 54% of Americans have spent a total of $18.2 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. That’s an 8% value decrease from last year’s $19.7 billion and also accounts for a 0.8% decrease in celebrants.

Historical Planned Valentine's Day Spendings
Source: NRF

Still, commercially speaking, in 2016 Valentine’s Day spendings were among the highest milestones of the year. Only two weeks later, we had spent almost $2 billion more (close to $21.2 billion) for Mother’s Day. But the surprising detail stands in the comparison with Easter spendings. A total of $16.4 billion shows that Valentine’s Day spendings were greater. Celebrating love is the third most important event of the year. Christmas, Mother’s Day, V-Day, Easter and Father’s Day round up the Top 5 campaigns of the year. Winter holidays take the largest time span, so that’s why they’re number one. But Easter is the holiest of Christian celebrations, so the main scope here is to experience its significance, rather than spend.

How many of us count for Valentine’s Day Spendings?

2007 registered the legendary high of 63% of Americans celebrating Valentine’s Day. But then, the latest financial crisis had a major impact on all year round spendings and so, many of us diminished Valentine’s Day spendings. Yes, we know, that wasn’t lovely at all.

Anyhow, on top of that, the main Valentine’s Day spendings determinant is age. Seems that growing older, we prepare for V-Day with less enthusiasm. Out of the 54.8% celebrants of 2016, less than half were 55+. Younger generations are more eager to show their feelings commercially. 2 out of 3 people aged 25 – 34 have prepared for and celebrated.

But, indifferent of prior planning, February 14th has 2 main spending peaks. In 2016, early birds prepared 2 weeks in advance. They accounted for 9.6% of celebrants. Another 17.2% of them thought that one week was enough time to scout the market, plan and decide over the best gifts. The majority, though, 21.1% got ready only a couple of days prior to the holiday and only 4.9% were the spontaneous ones who just grabbed last minute offers.

Key Buyer Behavior to factor in when rounding up Valentine’s Day Spendings

In terms of wish lists, we’d mostly prefer a night out (51%). Then, a smartphone (39%), a bit of chocolate to sweeten our day and flowers to smell nice and put a smile on our faces. Perhaps smartphones are 2nd most wanted V-Day presents because we want to create deeper and more meaningful connection with our loved ones throughout the year.

In terms of volumes, though, people shop for candies, greeting cards, dinner & night-outs, flowers, and jewelry in this order. But, regarding their value, things change a bit. We spend most on jewelry. So, there you have $4.3 billion worth of additional reasons for which we spend more on Valentine’s than we do for Easter – purchases are more expensive this time. Next, we spend $3.8 billion on going out, $2 billion on flowers and least on greeting cards.

Key Buyer Behavior in Valentine’s Day Spendings
Source: TheBalance

But it didn’t use to be like this. We used to spend less on greeting cards and candies because we used to make them by hand. In time, even cut-flowers exporters have speculated on this trend. Hence, Valentine’s Day spendings trigger the largest portion of their yearly budgets.

The impact of Valentine’s Day Spendings ads

On the other side, advertising meaningfully contributed to the monetization of February 14th. Anything that comes in pink or red is fluffy, fuzzy and heart shaped symbolizes love now. These are the message we struggle to convey every year. Since advertising appeals to our emotional nature and lots of retailers put great efforts into planning ahead, 9 out of 10 people buy a gift for their partner.

Gender wise, men spend an average of 2.3 times more than women. And also, almost twice more men respond to V-Day ads – 23.8% in comparison to 12.1%. Most of us are interested in discounts and free shipping. Almost a third click on ads out of curiosity and the least part out of the fear of missing out on special offers.

Moreover, not only smartphones are very important on our wishlists, but we use them a lot around and on February 14th. We use them to buy gifts, book restaurants, and hotels and to research products, offers, or retailer information.

Valentine’s Day Spendings in both on and offline

Overall, online sales continue to bravely pressure offline retailers. But, when it comes to Valentine’s day, due to the need to see and interact with most of the gifts we buy, we tend to head for department stores. This year, 35% of shoppers planned to purchase from a department store. Thus, discount stores and eCommerce were second and third options.
Out of the $18.2 billion we spent this Valentine’s Day, only a quarter, happened online. Hotel packs or traveling bundles – services, in general, of higher value that we don’t need to see or try out physically.

I think that Valentine’s Day is one of the most powerful, hands-on and real examples of the self-regulating market economy. When nothing else interferes, a higher demand will trigger a higher price; or a higher supply will trigger a lower price. And that’s it.

Take flower prices, for instance – they double. And it’s not because of production costs, but because of an increasing demand. An increasing demand that, in time, added an entire business analytics direction to our Valentine’s Day spendings.

Author avatar
Deliana Trasca

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