I “Heart” You: Valentine’s Day spending to total $21.8 billion, second-highest total ever

I “Heart” You: Valentine’s Day spending to total $21.8 billion, second-highest total ever

BCN Staff – Feb. 11, 2021 – You want love. You gotta pay even if you decide to go into quarantine, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics on Valentine’s Day spending.

Just over half (52%) of U.S. adults plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, spending a total of $21.8 billion, according to the report released on Jan. 28. Compared to a year ago when Valentine’s Day spending reached an all-time high of $27.4 billion, consumers are budgeting $32 less on average in 2021.

Yet despite this drop, it is still the second highest Valentine’s Day in terms of expected spending and comes on the heels of a record-setting winter holiday season. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers celebrating Valentine’s Day this year feel it is important to do so given the current state of the pandemic.

It is clear the virus is still front and center, the survey says, with 74% indicating it will directly impact their plans for the holiday. Those celebrating can still expect the classic candy, cards and flowers, but there is a significant decline in the number of consumers who will plan for an evening out. Less than one-quarter (24%) of consumers plan to gift their loved one with an evening out, the lowest in the survey’s history. Even still, the survey notes, 41% say they will plan a special dinner or celebration in the comfort of their own home.

“There is no question the pandemic has disrupted many aspects of Americans’ daily interactions and activities,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “However, there remains a special significance around Valentine’s Day, and consumers are committed to celebrating friends and loved ones, even if that means having to alter those traditional holiday celebrations.”

Each year, Valentine’s Day, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, falls on Feb 14. It originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and is recognized as a significant cultural, religious and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.

Because of altered plans this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that spending on Valentine’s Day gifts this year has dropped. Those celebrating plan to spend an average $164.76, down $32 on average per person, from a record $196.31 in 2020 right before the pandemic hit.

With consumers planning fewer evenings out, spending on significant others saw the biggest drop this year, down an average of $13 year over year. Further proof of COVID-19’s impact on spending plans is the decrease in spending on teachers, classmates and co-workers, as many continue to social distance. Consumers say they will spend an average of $10.77 on their children’s classmates and teachers, down from $14.45 last year. Additionally, they plan to spend an average of $8.47 on colleagues, down from $12.96 in 2020.

“Consumers still feel it’s important to spoil their loved ones in light of the pandemic,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “This year’s total and average spending figures are near record highs, as the second highest in the survey’s history.”

This year, online is the most popular Valentine’s Day shopping destination, visited by 39%, followed by department stores (29%), discount stores (28%) and local small businesses and specialty stores tied (17%). This year is the first-time consumers listed small businesses as a top five shopping destination since the question was added to the survey in 2015.

The survey of 7,882 adult consumers was conducted January 4-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points. NRF is the nation’s largest retail trade group, representing Walmart, Target and most of the nation’s top brick-and-mortar and online vendors.

Meanwhile, NRF analysis shows that shoppers have become expert at adapting to the long shadow of a pandemic that upended everything from daily routines to special events and celebrations. The report revealed three ways consumers are marking the occasion differently this year.

No reservation required

With rising COVID-19 cases and continued restrictions on indoor dining across the country, many consumers are swapping a romantic evening out for an at-home meal or celebration. Just 24 percent say they will celebrate with an evening out this year, down from 34 percent last year and the lowest in the survey’s history.

Another 46% say they are actively avoiding in-person gatherings. This translates to $1.5 billion less in spending on an evening out this year. However, that does not mean Valentine’s Day is canceled. Two in five say they are still planning a special meal or celebration from the comfort of home. And while some may use this as an opportunity to show off the new cooking skills they picked up during the pandemic, others might be looking to local restaurants for meal kits or three-course dinners to re-create the fine-dining experience.

Love in the bubble

Over the past decade, Valentine’s Day has grown into a holiday that’s not just about romantic love, but also an opportunity to celebrate all the important relationships in our lives. This year put that trend on pause and consumers are keeping it close to home in more ways than one. Those between the ages of 25 and 44 are usually the most likely to purchase Valentine’s Day gifts for their children’s classes or for co-workers. But with many classes taking place virtually or in small groups, consumers are much less likely to be including teachers, classmates or co-workers in their Valentine’s Day plans.

One group that still made consumers’ bubbles? Pets. Just like last year, 27% of those celebrating Valentine’s Day are planning to buy gifts and other treats for their pets.

A gap year for dating

While overall participation in Valentine’s Day is on par with previous years, one group might be deciding to sit the holiday out: Compared with last year, those between the ages of 18 and 24 are significantly less likely to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not just that they are passing on a romantic night out. They are also less likely to be planning get-togethers with friends or treating themselves to something special — activities that, in a typical year, are popular even among younger, single consumers.

While fewer young consumers are celebrating Valentine’s Day, some are committed to making the holiday even more special this year. Those aged 18-24 were the only age group to increase their planned spending on Valentine’s Day, from $109 to $184.

Nothing can mask love permanently, and we expect consumers will return to their typical Valentine’s Day traditions next year. You can find more Valentine’s Day data and insights in our Valentine’s Day Data Center.

(BCN Managing Editor Victoria Mays edited this story. You can reach her at victoria@BlackConsumerNews.com)

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