Love and Money 2008

Love Is All Around

It used to be that Valentine’s Day consisted of gifts passed among lovers. Not anymore.

The holiday is now the third largest holiday for retailers, partly because the practice of giving gifts has been expanded to almost everyone from friends to coworkers to pets.

Valentine’s Day “has massively spread to encompass others,” says Robert Passikoff CEO of Brand Keys, a brand and customer loyalty consultancy.

In fact, a recent suvey released by the National Retail Federation found that  per capita  spending for spouses and significant others will drop slightly from $80.29 last year to $79.99 this year while spending for friends, teachers, co-workers and pets is all up.

Overall spending is also up. According to the NRF, the average consumer expects to spend $122.98 on Valentine’s Day this year, up slightly from $119.67 a year ago.

Some things have not changed -- much. One of the most popular gifts are greeting cards: 56.8% of those celebrating Valentine’s Day will buy them. Passikoff says companies like Hallmark and American Greetingshave expanded the market by creating cards for all sorts of relationships.

One type of gift showing growth during the holiday are gift cards, with 12% of consumers expecting to by them. Gift cards have become a giant force during gift giving, says George Whalin, president and chief executive of Retail Management Consultants "and Valentine’s Day is no different." Passikoff suggests that the popularity of gift cards correlates with consumers buying gifts for more than their loved one. Consumers can easily give a gift card to Godiva for a less intimate relationship, like a co-worker or parent.

This year, spending on flowers will drop slightly from last year, with 35.9% of consumers saying they’ll purchase flowers, according to the NRF. Jim McCann, CEO of 1-800-Flowerssays that this year the “number of units” bought by each customer is going up, while total spending is about the same. He believes that customers are buying smaller gifts for different people. (Last month, however, the company lowered its revenue expectations for the year.)

The National Retail Federation predicts that 17.2% of shoppers will be buying something for their pets this Valentine’s Day. You can call it puppy love, but companies like PETCO and  Nestle Purina PetCare are taking it very seriously since the NFR expects pet spending on the holiday to reach $339 billion.

Nestle’s pet food division, Purina PetCare, is adding free standing coupon inserts with a Valentine’s Day message in Sunday newspapers that offer savings on all their pet foods and treats including brands like cat food Fancy Feast and dog treats like Beggin’ Strips. The company says a similar promotion last year proved successful based on feedback from retailers, so it is doing it again.

Pet retailer PETCO is holding Valentine’s Day parties for pets and their owners a week before the holiday.

Valentine’s Day has moved beyond celebrating it with just a loved one, says Passikof. It’s now all about “sharing sentiment, good cheer and a piece of your heart” with everyone.

For more on Valentine's Day spending, check out the slide show.

Joseph Pisani is a news associate at He can be reached at

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