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Valentine's Day Gifts: U.K.'s New Love Affair

Stacey Widlitz|Retail Consultant and Independent Analyst
Monday, 13 Feb 2012 | 11:14 AM ET

Remember the Hermes red crocodile Birkinwith white gold and diamonds that went up for auction in December? Now that would be a perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

present
PhotoAlto/Michele Constantini | PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections | Getty Images
present

You can stop sweating gentleman. Unfortunately, the bag has been spoken for at a mere $203,000, a world record price for a purse sold at auction.

While most of us are not in the market for a bag that could double as a down payment on a home, Valentine’s Day is big business. According to the National Retail Federation, Valentine's Dayis estimated to contribute $17.6 billion to the economy, an 8.6 percent increase over last year. On average, U.S. consumers surveyed reported they would spend $126.03 in 2012 versus $116.21 last year, according to the NRF.

While Valentine's Day in the U.K. may not be as “in your face” as it is in the U.S., the British are catching on quickly to the American love affair with the commercialized holiday.

And why not?

After all the oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt, according to history.com.

Surprisingly, data suggests the Brits are as generous, if not more so, than their American counterparts (men spend on average £118 or $185, according to a survey by Boticca).

Time to lift your hurdle ladies!

After scouring London’s retail landscape, I have put together “The Hint List.” Maybe you are giving your significant other a gift from London as a hint you are looking to attend the Olympics this summer? From the aspirational to the accessible, and even something for the blokes.

1. For the traveling Valentine (yes, hint trip to Olympics), this suitcase by Lulu Guinness will ensure you never lose your case, £295 for large. Burlington Arcade, London.

Lulu Guiness
Source: Luluguiness.com
Lulu Guiness

2. Feeling inspired by the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee? It’s good to be British this year. Lulu Guinness Clutch at Selfridges, £475.

Source: Luluguiness.com

Bling for the Blokes?

3. Don’t worry gentlemen you are included in “The Hint List.” Visit the only Jimmy Choo Men’s Boutique in Europe and pick up these red loafers for £425.

Jimmy Choo Red shoe
Source: Jimmychoo.com
Jimmy Choo Red shoe

4. If the Jimmy Choo’s are not "blingy" enough for you, take a look at what Church’s has to offer.

Church Red Shoe
Photo By: Stacey Widlitz for CNBC.com
Church Red Shoe

5. Back to the Ladies, literally. Those jeans don’t fit perfectly? Selfridge’s offers body-mapping by Bodymetrics, complete with Swarovski crystals on the back side, starting at £198.

Body Scan Jeans
Photo By: Stacey Widlitz for CNBC.com
Body Scan Jeans

6. Coach has returned to London with a flagship on New Bond Street and a location at the Westfield Mall. The pop-up shop at Selfridges closed Sunday. The Chelsea Patent Katarina retails for £350 in the UK. Hint: it is a lot cheaper in the U.S. at $378.

Source: coach.com

Aspirational, Appetizing and Accessible

7. Bottega Veneta's signature bag in red at £1,440. Retail stores on Sloane and Bond Street or at Selfridges, Harrods & Harvey Nichols.

Bottega Veneta
Source: Bottegaveneta.com
Bottega Veneta

8. No shortage of red bags, but the Prada tote is worth a look £920.

Prada
Photo By: Stacey Widlitz for CNBC.com
Prada

9. Not one of the 1 percent? Not to worry, there are plenty of accessible gifts at Forever 21 (earrings for £3.15, bracelets for £5.65, and lingerie starting at £5.65).

Forever 21
Photo By: Stacey Widlitz for CNBC.com
Forever 21

10. Finally, here's a gift idea if you believe the old saying that the way to the heart is through the stomach. Or maybe you are looking to drop a wedding hint? Baker extraordinaire Peggy Porschen, who came in second for the Kate & Will's cake, can help you out. Cupcakes are the affordable way to go at £3.50 each. I just inquired if she ships cakes to the U.S. I was told yes, or a private jet is an option.

Peggy Porschen
Photo By: Stacey Widlitz for CNBC.com
Peggy Porschen

Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years.

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