Valentine's Day Celebrants Spend More in 2019

Shoppers Feeling the Love This Valentine's Day

Couple celebrating Valentines Day
••• Photo: Cultura/Spark Photographic/Riser/Getty Images

In 2019, Valentine's Day shoppers set new spending records. They added $20.7 billion to the economy, according to the National Retail Federation. That's more than the $19.2 billion spent in 2018. This gave a huge boost to retailers who cater to this market. It also points to rising consumer confidence.

Spending in 2019 also beat the previous record of $19.7 billion set in 2016. That's good news for the economy. Consumer spending drives almost 70% of the nation's total output. That makes it the largest component of gross domestic product

For historical comparison, 2019 spending was also more than these prior years: $18.2 billion in 2017, $18.9 billion in 2015, $18.6 billion in 2013, and $17.4 billion in 2014.

Who's Doing the Spending

Only 51% of the population planned to celebrate Valentines' Day, the lowest since at least 2009. The previous low was 55% in 2018. The record high was 63% in 2007.

One reason could be national demographics. The proportion of older people continues to rise, but they are less likely to celebrate the holiday. Younger people, who still try to impress potential mates, participate more than older, more settled folks. Fifty-two percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 will celebrate the holiday, according to the NRF. Another 53% of those between 18 and 24 years old will do so. But only 47% of those over 55 will celebrate.

Fortunately, celebrants were spending a record amount of $161.96 per person. That beat the 2016 record of $146.84. It's also 13% more than the $143.56 spent in 2018. Consumers spent $136.57 in 2017, $142.31 in 2015, and $133.91 in 2014. The lowest spending was $102.50 in 2009.

As usual, men spent almost twice as much as women: $229.54 per guy versus $97.77 per gal. Men's spending was up 20% while women's spending was down 1%.

One reason for the gender gap is income. In 2018, those making $50,000 a year or more spent $169.32 each versus $109.14 per person making less than $50,000.

Top 5 Valentine's Day Purchases

More people shopped for less expensive gifts, proving the adage that it's the thought that counts. Here are the top five gifts, the percentages of who bought them, and how much they spent in total:

Purchase Percent Billions Spent
Candy 52% $1.8
Greeting cards 44% $0.9
Evening out 34% $3.5
Flowers 35% $1.9
Jewelry 18% $3.9

Least Popular Gifts

The least favorite gifts were also the least romantic. Only 18% bought clothing and spent $2.1 billion. Just 15% bought gift cards and paid $1.3 billion. 

Gifts for Pets

More than a third of Millennials have pets, more than any other age group. They especially love to splurge on their pets on holidays. On Valentine's Day, those ages 25 to 34 were expected to spend $12.70 each. That's three times more than those ages 35 to 44, who tend to spend just $4.08. People ages 65 or older spend the least, about $1.44, on their animal companions.

Where They Shop

More shoppers, around 35%, visited department stores than discount stores, which were visited by only 32%. Online shopping has captured more consumers, with 27% using Amazon and the like. But 18% still went to specialty stores, and 16% stopped by the florist's shop. Retailers stocked the shelves with deals in anticipation of value-conscious shoppers.

Mobile Device Use Is on the Upswing

Just like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers used their mobile devices to share their love on the go. Over half of smartphone owners used them to purchase their gifts. More than a third used them to research products, prices, and retailer information. They also redeemed coupons and purchased products with their device. 

What the Other Half Does

Almost half of the population weren’t celebrating Valentine's Day in the traditional sense. But about one-third of them were doing something. For example, 11% are giving themselves some love by buying something special. Nine percent were getting together with family or friends. In 2018, 4% rebelled against the holiday by purchasing an "anti" Valentine's Day gift.

Article Sources

  1. National Retail Federation. "Fewer Consumers Celebrating Valentine’s Day but Those Who Do Are Spending More," Accessed Jan. 8, 2020.

  2. National Retail Federation. "Is Love Still in the Air?" Accessed Jan. 8, 2020.

  3. National Retailer Federation. "Young Love: 3 Ways Millennials and Gen Z are Celebrating Valentine’s Day This Year," Accessed Jan. 9, 2020.