Valentine’s Day – A retailing love affair

| February 14, 2019

Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is a classic Hallmark holiday (without the holiday) with the special power to get people spending. As Huey Lewis said, that’s the power of love.

A brief history of Valentine’s Day

The global phenomenon is named for Saint Valentine, a 3rd-Century Roman saint known for wedding soldiers and thereby rebelling against the laws of the land at that time. Valentine was commemorated on 14 February – and the date has been celebrated for its romanticism since the Middle Ages.

Back in the 14th Century, the day was associated with the tradition of ‘courtly love’ at a time where it was more common for women to give men flowers. It wasn’t until the 1700s, in England, that people began to gift sweets and send greeting cards to their beloved.

With the sale of sweets and, by the 19th Century, the mass-production of greeting cards, the commercial benefits of Valentine’s Day began to rise.

According to the greeting card stalwart Hallmark, it began selling Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and it estimates that more than 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year.

To give you a little more insight into just how big an opportunity Valentine’s Day has become, here are some key facts and figures to consider:

1. Valentine’s Day is a global phenomenon

While many businesses seek to capitalise on local lovers, there’s a sizeable opportunity internationally, with Valentine’s Day routinely celebrated throughout Europe and North America. In fact, the National Retail Federation estimates Americans will spend more than USD$20bn on Valentine’s Day gifts this year.

2. It also stimulates spending more locally

Valentine’s Day is also popular in Australia and New Zealand. Mastercard data reported by the NZ Herald from 2017 showed kiwi men spent around NZD$157 on average, while women splashed $103.

By comparison, a 2016 study by found recently married Aussies were looking to spend around AUD$253 million on the big day in 2017, with men expecting to fork out up to $119 more than women.

3. But the ‘Valentine’s Day gender gap’ could be closing

As noted, once upon a time it was common for women to give flowers to men, and it seems that tradition may be making a comeback.

For the last century it has been common for men to spend more on Valentine’s Day, but according to the Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman, that is beginning to shift.

“While past customs have favoured men gifting presents to women, we have noticed a refreshing change to this tradition recently, with more women sending gifts and writing cards to men,” said Zimmerman.

4. Flower, chocolate and jewellery sales go into overdrive

Gerry Gerrard, the chief executive of Interflora – a marketplace platform that aims to connect consumers and independent florists – said many flower retailers can expect a month’s worth of orders in a single day, which often leaves them working around the clock “to ensure there are no disappointed lovers on the special day”.

Similarly, marketing manager for Haigh’s Chocolates, Fiona Krawczyk said that “online and in-store traffic increases tenfold in the lead up to Valentine’s Day” as chocolates are always a popular gift. Such boosts in activity can also be seen among jewellery retailers.

5. Valentine’s Day is no longer just about hetero couples

A recent article on Mumbrella has highlighted a growing trend towards marketing to singles and same-sex couples in the US, which could soon be adopted more locally.

And with around 40 percent of the population is expected to be single this year, combined with the 5,400 same-sex marriages having occurred in the year since Australia’s YES vote passed, the strategy seems to stack up.

So what are you doing to make sure your customers fall in love with your business this year?