Valentine's Day spending

Love changes everything: Our shifting spending around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day. A time for kisses and crème brulee, champagne and shopping; when couples wine, dine and rush to buy artisan chocolates, sweet smelling perfume, giant stuffed animals, designer jewellery and umpteen roses. Or is it?

Barclaycard spend data captured for the month of February 2019 revealed a contraction in traditionally strong Valentine’s categories including eating out and romantic getaways. Areas that might have been expected to perform well last year demonstrated muted year-on-year growth - with restaurants up a modest 3.9% and hotels actually contracting by 3.8%. Gift shops and jewellers also saw a contraction in growth at 4% and 0.3% respectively –partly due to ongoing economic uncertainty at the time.

Is the UK falling out of love with Valentine’s Day – or is there something else going on?

Can’t Buy Me Love

You don’t often think of payments and The Beatles together, but in 2017, Barclaycard (the UK’s first credit card  launched in 1966) was featured alongside the Fab Four in “You Say You Want a Revolution”­­— the V&A’s exhibition in celebration of sixties counterculture. Now it seems that the UK is embodying Lennon and McCartney’s things that money just can’t buy attitude, and paying for new experiences rather than the traditional presents.

In many ways, Barclaycard’s February 2019 Spend data was unsurprising; in response to ongoing economic uncertainty, last year Barclaycard research showed that almost one in three (32%) were cutting back on non-essentials like new clothes and eating out, and shopping more often at discount stores in an effort to make their money go further.

All out of love?

Over in the US, the National Retail Federation found that the number of Americans that planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day had all but halved since 2009. While other events like China’s Singles Day are starting to creep in, could we be seeing a similar story in the UK?

If Instagram is anything to go by, it seems Valentine’s Day is alive and well in the UK – but like Christmas, for many of us, it just looks a little different. Many people are embracing alternative ideas of love – and spending their money in a way that reflects that.

No ordinary love

With the rise of the ‘experience economy’ it’s clear that people are still willing to part with their cash – but instead of a gift, for an experience that couples can enjoy together. Gigplomats – people who attend entertainment experiences for someone else – are a group on the rise with partners making up 62% of these selfless individuals according to Barclaycard research; meaning retailers should be considering tailoring their products to this market.

Of course, it all depends what you think of as an experience. A £20 meal deal for two from a supermarket on the sofa can be just as nice as a lavish night out or weekend away – and doesn’t require half as much planning.

It’s also worth mentioning that love doesn’t have to be for a partner, it could be a family member or a friend. ‘Galentine’s’ Day is seeing women single and otherwise reclaiming Valentine’s Day as an excuse to have fun treating their friends. Originating from ‘Parks and Recreation’, Galentine’s Day – 13th February – is a fictional holiday that is now celebrated by some and there’s plenty of themed merchandise out there including ‘Galentine’s Day party packs if you want to have a get-together.  

Taking this one step further – what about the idea of celebrating Valentine’s Day alone? After Emma Watson recently described herself as ‘self-partnered’, might we begin to see products and merchandise aimed at those in relationships with themselves?

We identified the trend towards quirky, personalised gifts back in 2018, understanding that people no longer want overpriced, clichéd Valentine’s Day presents. Firm favourites were the option of turning couples into paper dolls, personalised sound wave prints containing coded sweet nothings, ‘his and hers’ avocado necklaces, or a framed hand-cut map of the location you met.

One for the eco-conscious, Metro has identified a new trend sweeping Instagram for Valentine’s 2020: repurposing your Christmas Tree. There’s no need to worry about bad luck if you’ve not taken it down – simply cover in red or pink tinsel, love hearts, kisses and flowers and you’ve got yourself the perfect holiday decoration.

Sustainability isn’t limited to reusing old decorations. The face of gifting is changing; why not opt for Fair Trade chocolates and flowers, cook a romantic vegan candlelit dinner or handcraft your own card?

Who said romance is dead? 

Not us. If the Beatles were right, and all you need is love, consumer trends in the UK seem to finally be in agreement. For instance, Barclaycard research reveals that 72% of Brits have attended a gig or event just to please someone else in the past year – spending to the tune of £965m to keep their loved ones happy. While there will always be a place for old-school romance in the market, many people are concentrating on spending wisely, spending consciously, and spending their Valentine’s budget on the things guaranteed to surprise and delight their partners. What could be more romantic than that?