Whether you are a romantic who indulges in the tradition of gift giving on Valentine’s Day or you are a realist who doesn’t see the romance in a Hallmark holiday, you can’t deny that Valentine’s Day is big business. But how and why has it changed?
The origins of Valentine’s Day name are shrouded in mystery but one theory is that it was inspired by a priest during third century Rome who was called Valentine. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine defied the emperor and continued to perform marriages in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest Valentine help Christians escape Roman prisons or he was a prisoner who fell in love with the daughter of his jailor and sent her the first ever card, signing off ‘From your Valentine’.
It’s estimated that Americans began exchanging valentines in the 1700s, and the first mass produced valentines in America were produced in the 1840s.
According to information from the Greeting Card Association in 2016, Valentine’s Day cards are the second most popular seasonal card after Christmas, with 145 million units sold per year.
Sara Fisher, Lecturer at The University of Law Business School said: “Valentine’s Day will be the first chance for businesses to boost their footfall and profits since the lacklustre Christmas and January sales. Valentine’s Day has increased in popularity dramatically over the last decade but with Brexit and economic stability being the hot topic it is in the UK we’ll just have to wait and see if it can provide the high street with the uplift it needs. Hopefully it will be a success for romantics and businesses alike.’
In the UK, on average, men spend £40 on their partner on Valentine’s Day, whereas women spend an average of £24. For many retailers, Valentine’s Day is the first opportunity to breathe life back into the business after the post January sale slump. Brits spent an incredible £620 million on Valentine’s gifts in 2017. Spending is predicted to approach £1bn this year and footfall in many city centres increases by about 20% on 14 February, reaching a peak at around lunchtime. The significance of the day is becoming increasingly clear with surveys showing that up to 50% of women would apparently ditch their partners if he or she didn’t get them a Valentine day’s present.
Fresh flowers reportedly make up 36% of Valentine’s transactions and 40% of the overall spend. But gone are the days where people gifted simple red roses and a card. Common gifts now include jewellery, spa visits and weekend city breaks.
In a market saturated with perishable gifts it is experiences and ethical/eco-friendly gifts that are on the increase. Scott Abrahams, Head of Business Development, Mastercard UK & Ireland, said: “The data supports the rise of the ‘experience economy’ as happiness clearly comes from creating lasting memories, instead of purchasing material goods.”
According to Mastercard, figures between February 11-14 of each year from 2015 until 2018 show there has been a 1064% increase in the amount of money spent on air and train travel. There has also been a 23% increase in travel experience expenses and 27% increase in hotel expenses over that same time ahead of Valentine’s Day. According to National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day 2018 survey, 44% of 24-35 year olds planned an experience together to celebrate the holiday and more than 51% said it was what they’d most like to receive. This trend increases the amount of shoppers relying on the internet for their purchases while the high street still thrives as last minutes Valentine’s shopping peaks on the day itself.
While Valentine’s Day has traditionally been about partners and loved ones, the trend for treating yourself is becoming more apparent. We’ll be keeping an eye on how this trend increases this year.