Complex Made Simple

When love sells: The business of Valentine’s Day

Like most other holidays throughout the year, such as New Year's Eve and Mother's Day, Valentine's Day has not been spared the commercialization of our capitalist era.

The origins of Valentine's Day are very murkey, but it found true mainstream commercialization in the 1900s In the US, Valentine's Day sales will reach $27.4 billion, a new record, according to a recent study In the Middle East, online retailers are seeing an uptick in non-food related searches

Like most other holidays throughout the year, such as New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day, businesses have made a pseudo-commerce festival of Valentine’s Day. Everything from the florist sector, to the confectionary and travel sectors, everyone wants a piece of the action. It’s capitalism at its finest, truly. 

With Valentine’s Day ten days away,  we look at how this holiday is being commercialized in every way. 

Origin of Valentine’s Day 

The origin and history of Valentine’s Day is a long and complex one – and often not set in stone with conficting stories. Just know that the earliest known Valentine gift was a poem by an imprisoned Duke in 1415

Since then, it is believed the holiday gained prominence until it was populary celebrated around the 17th century in countries like Great Britain. 

“By the middle of the 18th [century], it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology,” History.com writes. 

So, it was by the 20th century that Valentine’s Day as a day of consumerism truly began. 

Valentine’s Day in 2020

In 2020, Valentine’s Day is expected to be bigger than ever, with spending on the rise. 

(Note: We are using statistics from the US as it remains the largest market for Valentine’s Day sales, as well as the fact that data from the Middle East on the topic is limited)

Total expected Valentine’s Day spending in the United States from 2009 to 2020 in USD (billion), Statista.

“The Valentine’s Day shopping season is stronger than ever, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF), a retail trade association, and market research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics,” Yahoo Finance reported. “The survey of 7,267 adults found that consumers expect to spend an average of $196.31 this holiday, up 21% from last year’s record of $161.96.”

As per this particular study, overall spending will reach a record $27.4 billion, which would be up 32% from last year’s record of $20.7 billion.

Read: “Honey, I shrunk the cash” – A “graphic” Valentine’s story

Which sectors benefit?Chart: StatistaWhile flowers, greeting cards and chocolate are the first gifts that come to mind when thinking of gifts on the 14th, the holiday has changed in a way that other sectors are getting in on sales. 

Here are the percentages of sales per sector, based on the chart above:

On Valentine’s Day, everyone from restaurants, travel agencies, to even online game stores like Steam cash in on the holiday. In fact, e-retailer giant Amazon has become a dominant force on this day as well, as have other online retailers. 

“Furthermore, competition from the online companies is growing; in less than 10 years internet-based businesses such as Amazon have captured about one third of the Valentine’s day market which, in turn is expanding the market,” news site The Drum reports

Travel agencies offer limited-time packages to entice celebrators, florists stock up on roses, supermarkets and sweets stores offer themed confectionary, STARZPLAY curates a list of romance films, and the list goes on. In this day and age, businesses will make every holiday work to their favor. 

In the UAE, everyone from Taj Jumeirah Lakes Towers to Andaz Dubai The Palm are offering exclusive offers for couples looking for the perfect getaway. 

Moreoever, 2016 data by Mastercard reveals that jewelry continues to be the most purchased category in the Middle East. 

According to recent data by SEMrush, online retailers in the country will see an uptick in “non-food ‘delivery’ searches,” indicating that consumer habits in the UAE during this period will increasingly lean towards online purchases. 

According to the aforementioned NRF study, “department stores are the most popular Valentine’s Day shopping destination, visited by 36%, with discount stores and online tied at 32%, specialty stores at 19%, florists at 17%, local small business at 15% and clothing stores and jewelry shops tied at 11%.”

Read: A lucky Valentine date will be over moon, literally, as space travel rockets from 2020

Changing purchashing trends? 

This year, 55% of the US population expected to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, an increase from last year. However, whom the spending goes towards is changing.

“The biggest share of Valentine’s spending still goes to spouses and significant others at 52% of the total, or an average $101.21 this year, up from $93.24 in 2019,” the study says. “But their share of the spending is down from 61% a decade ago. The share spent on most other recipients has gone up over the past decade, with the amount spent on co-workers, for example, more than doubling to 7% of the total from 3%. The share for pets has also doubled, to 6% from 3% in the same time period.”

Consumers say they will spend on family members other than spouses; friends; children’s classmates and teachers; co-workers, pets; and others.

“The youngest Valentine’s shoppers surveyed – those ages 18-24 – plan to spend an average $109.31. But those 25-34 – old enough to have higher incomes and children to buy for – expect to spend $307.51 and are topped out by those 35-44 as the biggest spenders at $358.78.”

“As in each year of the survey, men plan to spend more than women at $291.15 compared with $106.22.”