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Who's Getting Some Love This Valentine's Day?

Monday, 1 Feb 2010 | 3:31 PM ET

I guess if they truly love you, they will understand.

dog with present
Tooga | Getty Images
dog with present

With consumers continuing to be wary of spending, it should come as no surprise that they are planning to be picky with their spending this Valentine's Day. Couples are saying they plan to spend less on each other, but more on friends, co-workers and pets this year.

According to NRF, couples plan to spend an average of $63.34 on gifts for their sweetie this year, compared to $67.22 last year, with men spending about twice as much on gifts as women.

But if you are a romantic, you may prefer a slightly more optimistic survey from IBISWorld, which predicts a 3.3% increase in spending this year to $17.6 billion.

The two surveys differ on their view of whether cupid will work his magic over a candlelit dinner out on the town.

All together, the NRF expects the average person to shell out $103.00 on flowers, chocolates, and other traditional Valentine's Day gifts, up just 50 cents from last year. They peg total holiday spending at about $14.1 billion.

Although spending on family members will hold relatively steady ($20.94 vs $20.95 last year), Fluffy and Fido will be feeling the love, with the average person spending $3.27 on their furry friends, up from $2.17 last year. (When put that way, it seems like a small amount for all that unconditional love, no?)

"The economy has forced consumers to rethink their gift giving practices," said Phil Rist, executive vice president of Strategic Initiatives at BigResearch, the firm that conducted the survey for the NRF. "Personal and unique gifts will speak volumes this Valentine's Day as consumers dig deep into their hearts and not their wallets."

This means shoppers are likely to favor more practical items like sweaters and other clothing instead of jewelry.

Candy is still expected to top the list, with some 47.2 percent of people saying they will buy chocolates and other sweets, the NRF survey said.

As for the pets, PetSmart wouldn't say whether it's seeing increased demand for pet products ahead of the holiday.

"People enjoy celebrating the holidays with their pets," said a PetSmart spokeswoman. "Pets are seen as part of the family and it's a natural segue to see them incorporated into holiday celebrations."

The retailer sells a number of plush pet toys and pet apparel designed for Valentine's Day, including lip-shaped chew toys that make kissing sounds and edible Valentine's Day cards.

PetSmart also uses the holiday as a way to promote its pet adoption program. The "Second Chance at Love" pet adoption event will run for three days over the Valentine's Day weekend with the goal of finding homes for 16,000 pets.

This year Valentine's Day lands on a Sunday during the long President's Day weekend, and the timing of the holiday could have a significant impact on sales.

Although the NRF survey found fewer people planned to go out to dinner to celebrate, market researcher IBISWorld's rival forecast that found that the longer weekend may spark more interest in dining out, or even a romantic getaway.

Last year, 47 percent of those surveyed by Big Research said they would go out to dinner. This year, only about 35.6 percent said they were planning an evening out.

Timing of Holiday Could Wilt Flower Sales

But IBISWorld has a more optimistic view of spending on dining and travel, seeing an estimated 8.2 percent rise in restaurant spending and a 2.3 percent increase in travel.

"Because Valentine’s Day lands on a Sunday, restaurants are likely to gain traffic throughout the entire weekend," said Toon van Beeck, senior analyst with IBISWorld.

Teleflora's "Heart & Soul" bouquet.
Source: Teleflora
Teleflora's "Heart & Soul" bouquet.

The IBISWorld study found challenging trends for florists, which see Valentine's Day as a key driver of annual sales.

Research from the Society of American Florists shows that Sunday is the worst day for Valentine’s Day to fall on for florists. That could make this year’s sales especially bleak.

IBISWorld expects florists to counter the timing of the holiday by pushing early promotions in an attempt to increase orders and build sales throughout the week leading up to the holiday.

Teleflora, 1-800-Flowers , and United Online's FTDall declined to discuss recent sales trends. But it is clear that the push to win flower sales is already on.

Teleflora's ad strategy includes a return to the Super Bowl with an ad featuring comedian Don Rickles.

Although red roses continue to be a popular option for Valentine's Day, consumers have been shifting to other types of bouquets, which often can cost much less than roses.

Bouquets with a mixture of colored roses, tulips, or carnations have been top sellers at Teleflora, according to Shawn Weidmann, the company's president. Orchids, which are perceived as being exotic and are longer lasting than cut flowers, also are becoming fashionable, he said.

For example, Teleflora sells a "Heart & Soul" bouquet with carnations designed in the shape of a heart that costs $49.95 and has consistently been a big seller. A similar arrangement with roses sells for $84.95.

Still, red roses continue to be the No. 1 choice.

"We have also found consumers still want big, beautiful bouquets that recipients can show off," Weidmann said.

More from Consumer Nation:

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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