Countdown To Cupid: Valentine's Day Spending To Grow 20%

The National Retail Federation said yesterday that it expects Americans to spend $16.9 billion on Valentine's Day this year, with the average consumer shelling out $119.67--up from $100.89 last year. And 63.4% of consumers plan to celebrate the holiday, whether it's with a pricey gift or a simple text message.

(Last year, Verizon Wireless reported a 20% surge in text messages, including plenty of "I LUV U", "U R MINE", "I M URS", and "XXOO"s.)

But romance is definitely hotter when you're young.

The NRF survey found that those in the 25-34 crowd plan to spend the most--at $164.32--and those between 18 and 24 plan to spend $143.39, close to double last year's $81.89. Among the 45 to 54 demographic, spending is expected to fall to $107.81, from $128.78 in 2006. On average, men spend almost twice as much as women: $156.22 compared to $85.08.

Because the holiday falls on a Wednesday this year, industry experts expect Americans will likely spend more on gifts, as opposed to weekend V-days, when couples are more likely to whisk one another off on romantic weekend getaways.

Of course, some of that $16.9 billion will be spent on innovative gifts. Neiman Marcus, for example, is pushing a red Lalique heart paperweight ($260), Victoria's Secret is offering big discounts on its leopard-and-lace trimmed Very Sexy Sexy Sheer line, and there's a $50 "Tool around" gift basket from Amazon, complete with chocolate body paints.

But when it comes down to the wire, the average American male still goes for the four V-day standbys: Flowers (58.3% of American men will make some kind of floral purchase), dinner (53.1%), candy (49.2%), and jewelry (27.6%).

Valentine's Day continues to be the No. 1 holiday for florists, says the Society of American Florists--capturing 35% of holiday transactions and 34% of dollar volume. Last year, that translated into 189 million roses, and men purchased 74%.

When they buy flowers, men almost always buy them for the women in their lives. However, when women buy flowers, 32% send them to Mom for Valentine's Day, 24% to their husband or significant other, and 22% send them to themselves.

V-day candy sales hit $971 million in 2006, according to the National Confectioners Association. Chocolate accounts for about 75%, and this year, industry experts expect to see more attention than usual given to dark chocolate, high cocoa percentage chocolates, and gourmet brands.

And then there's jewelry: This year, Tiffany is pushing its new Tiffany Novo engagement ring, with a cushion cut, as well as a new line of Tiffany Hearts pendants, which start at $600.

Of course, there's always the combo gift: Vera Wang just announced a partnership with FTD.com, selling pink and ivory roses to commemorate the launch of her new fragrance, Vera Wang Truly Pink. The Truly Pink rose has a subtle scent and a high-petal count, and will be sold with the fragrance.

Godiva is promoting a contest with $1 million in diamonds from Hearts on Fire as its main prize. And 1-800-Flowers has teamed up with Jewelry Television for "The Key To Their Heart Sweepstakes," with prizes that include a $10,000 diamond tennis bracelet, a year of roses, or diamond earrings.

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