Yes, it’s that time of year again – plump up the cushions, light the candles, and loosen the purse strings – here comes Valentine’s Day.

In 1967 the Beatles professed “All you need is Love”. However despite the extended recession and the continued fragility of the Global Economy, according to the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association’s recent survey, it is anticipated that this year we will spend a staggering $13.19 billion in an attempt to demonstrate our love.

So how as a nation do we compare in the love stakes?

Avoiding drawing upon any national stereotypes, the results are perhaps surprising and for UK retailers, very encouraging.  Despite the fact that the UK Retailers Occasions report in 2013 stated that “A high proportion of consumers place very little personal importance to the occasion, with the vast majority believing it to be a waste of money” we continue to spend, and at an impressive rate. This must be good news for British retailers who have not been doing so well recently (see previous post UK Retail – Another Dressing Down?)

Although cards, flowers and chocolates remain the top sellers, throw in dinner, a few trinkets, perhaps a weekend away, and Valentine’s Day takings are expected to exceed £1.3 billion according to the British Retail Consortium.

So if we self-confessed cynics don’t value Valentine’s Day why do we insist on engaging in this annual spending spree? Surely not just to provide data for the economic commentators and statisticians to subsequently dissect? Perhaps the answer can be found in the results of a USA survey, which found that 53% of women will “dump” boyfriends who do not give them anything on Valentine’s Day and there is every sign that British women are equally unforgiving.  The rules of the game are complex, but fairly consistent.  The occasion has evolved to the extent that consumers feel a sense of obligation to purchase products, regardless of their personal level of apathy.

Where do we Shop and What do we Buy? 

The growth of online retail is set to continue and the likes of Amazon and major gift specialists such as “Not on the High Street” and “Getting Personal” are expected to fare well.  The increasing popularity of voucher sites could also produce a large jump in online sales this year.  Whilst online retailers are campaigning harder and guaranteeing speedier deliveries to try to boost sales, if history repeats itself, the vast majority of purchases will be made on the High Street, often last minute panic buys, which will play into the hands of the supermarkets, which are now providing a one stop shop for lovers in a rush.

Last year 21% of people in the UK gave flowers, spending a total of £262m. Just fewer than three-quarters of the buyers were men, and the best-selling flowers were, of course, red roses. Each Valentine’s Day, we buy around 100,000 more bunches creating the busiest day of the year for high end independent florists. The biggest expansion has been with the supermarkets which have expanded their flower departments and are now battling out their very own War of the Roses with the major online retailers, most notably Interflora and Serenata.

Valentine’s Day is no less important for the US’s largest chocolate producer, The Hershey Company, where its PR department told a Benzinga staff writer that Hershey’s “makes more than a million pounds of Kisses and sells more than… 800 million individual Kisses for Valentine’s Day.”

If you believe that the Valentine’s Day craving for candy and chocolate is just an American obsession – then think again. The lust for all things sugary has become big business for Japan’s confectioners, reportedly making up more than half of their $5 billion annual sales.  Japanese tradition, spurred on by the nation’s candy industry, calls for women to hand out chocolates to men on February 14, with men returning the favour a month later on “White Day”.

For those who find the commercialisation just too much to bear, coming hard on the heels of the Christmas festivities, console yourself with my top ten pieces of Valentine’s trivia.

The Global Love Stats

  1.  USA spends $367m on their pets on Valentine’s Day!
  2. 15% of women send themselves flowers.
  3. 31% of Germans confess to having forgotten Valentine’s Day.
  4. In France 85% of women want to receive a ring for Valentine’s Day.
  5. In Thailand, 26% of people send their love letters by email.
  6. In Brazil, Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 12 June.
  7. 53% of women would end their relationship if they didn’t get something on Valentine’s Day.
  8. 180m Valentines Cards are exchanged annually.
  9. The average number of children conceived on Valentine’s Day is approx. 11,000.
  10. In France 24% of people would rather spend quality time with their partner than receive a gift. 

Perhaps the French have got a point. In this hectic 24/7 world we inhabit perhaps it is time to slow down, take stock and spend some quality time with your loved one.

If you still have a consumer need to satisfy – you could always indulge in a book of “Love Vouchers”. Yes for the princely sum of £3.99 spent at Amazon you can “Treat Your Loved One to the Best Gift of all – Your Time!”

Where will it all end?