Happy Valentine's Day! Retailers Feeling the Love

Sales Trends for 2016 Hit New Records

Valentine's Day
Young people participate more on Valentine's Day than older folks.. Photo: Cultura/Spark Photographic/Riser/Getty Images

Valentine's Day Sales to Hit New Record in 2016

People are planning to lavish attention on their loved ones this Valentine's Day, spending much more than last year. In 2016, Valentine's Day is estimated to contribute $19.7 billion to the economy, according to the National Retail Federation. That's even better than last year's record of $18.9 billion. In 2014, only $17.3 billion was spent, lower than the $18.6 billion spent in 2013.

That's good news for the economy. Consumer spending drives nearly 70% of economic growth, as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That's crucial this year because business spending has been falling off. The latest GDP report shows that the strong dollar has hurt exporters, most of whom are manufacturers. That means the consumer needs to spend even more to keep America's economic engine running. For more, see Components of GDP.

Like last year, more than half (54.8%) will celebrate it this year. That's lower than the record of 60% in 2013. That means fewer are participating, but they are each spending more.

Who Spends the Most? The Wealthy, Men, and the Young

Those who are celebrating are spending $146.84 each. That's slightly more than the $142.31 spent last year and much higher than the $133.91 spent in 2014. 

As usual, men spend nearly twice as much as women: $196.39 per guy v.s. $99.87 per gal.

That's because men are, on average, higher earners. Those making $50,000 a year or more will spend $169.32 each, vs. $109.14 per person making less than $50,000.

That reflects the trend towards greater U.S. income inequality. Those who derive income from stocks, bonds, and other investments have done better since 2000 than those whose incomes come mostly from wages.

One reason is that many highly-paid manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to low-cost countries like China.

Younger people, who are still trying to impress potential mates, participate more than older, more settled folks. Nearly two-thirds of those between 25-34 will celebrate the holiday, and 60% of those between 18-24. Less than half of those between 55-64 will celebrate, and only 44.7% of those 65 and older.

The Top 5 Valentine's Day Purchases

As you would expect, more people participate in the less expensive gifts, proving the adage that it's the thought that counts. Here are the top five gifts, the percent who participate, and how much they spend on average.

PurchasePercent  Amount
Greeting Cards  48%$17.81
Evening Out38%$87.25


The least favorite gifts are also the least romantic. Only 17% will buy clothing, spending $87.37 each, and 15% will buy gift cards, spending $81.20 each.

Where Do They Shop?

The economy is improving for Valentines' Day shoppers.

For the first time, more will go to department stores (35%) than discount stores (31%). Nearly 20% will go to greeting card stores or florists while only 11% will go to jewelers. Retailers have stocked the shelves with deals in anticipation of value-conscious shoppers.

As on the Black Friday holiday weekend, more and more shoppers simply go online each year. In 2016, nearly 28% will, compared to 25% in 2015 and 16% in 2014. 

Mobile Devices on the Upswing

Just like Cyber Monday, shoppers use their mobile devices to share the love on-the-go. Nearly a half of smartphone or tablet owners will use them to research products, prices, and retailer information, redeem coupons and purchase products with their device. 

As NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay concludes, “Low gas prices and guaranteed promotions from retailers large and small should help consumers as they look for the perfect gift for their friends and family.”  (Source: "Dinner and a Movie, Flowers, and Jewelry, Bring Valentine's Day Spending to Record High," National Retail Federation, February 3, 2016.) Updated February 4, 2016.

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