retail

Cupid, Wearing Snow Boots, Sprinkling A Little Less Love

The National Retail Federation expects Americans to feel a little a little less romantic this Valentine’s Day, and predicts that spending will slip to $18.2 billion, down from last year’s record $19.7 billion.

That works out to an average of $136.57 per each person celebrating, down from last year’s $146.84, and snowstorms pounding the Northeast are likely to further crimp Cupid’s style. And while spending has trended upwards since the NRF started tracking it back in 2007, with men typically spending twice as much as women, the number of people who celebrate the Feb. 14 event keeps dropping. In 2007, 63% said they observed the holiday. This year, just 54% plan to.

The biggest gift category, of course, is jewelry -- accounting for $4.3 billion -- and it is the gift of choice of nearly one in five gifters. Next up is a romantic night out, chosen by 37% of celebrants, who anticipate paying $3.8 billion for those special meals. (WalletHub reports that works out to be $73.68 per couple.) About 35% plan to send flowers, spending $2 billion, while 50% anticipate giving candy ($1.7 billon.)

Movies are big, too, with Foursquare, which analyzed data from 2015 and last year, reporting a 255% weekly increase in traffic to movie theaters during Valentine’s week.

The NRF survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, is based on responses from some 7,600 adults.

But there are big regional differences. WalletHub, after analyzing some 100 cities for density of florists, candy stores and jewelers, as well as average restaurant costs, says the best cities for Valentine’s Day are San Francisco; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Honolulu, Orlando, and Seattle. The worst are San Bernardino, Calif.; Cleveland; Detroit; Newark, N.J.; and Hialeah, Fla. 

Brands are pulling out all the usual stops this year, but there are some fun digital twists. Dunkin’ Donuts is running a “Dunkin’ Love” photo contest and offering an iMessage custom card builder. And Hallmark has cooked up a Fabio sticker for iPhones. “Dress up a plain text message with Fabio's illustrious windswept mane, charming smile and sultry eyes featured in six brand-new animated stickers,” it says, with options include clinking champagne glasses and popping corks.

Some brands are latching onto love that addresses the country’s ideological angst. SC Johnson, for example, is linking the word “Match” into a Valentine’s promotion to matching grants, meant to drive donations to its program to help preserve 10,000 acres of the Amazon rain forest. (The acre-for-acre match program is in conjunction with “Under the Canopy,” the new virtual reality film from Conservation International.) RISE, a Chicago-based organization devoted to getting non-voters back to the polls, is asking for Love Letters to America, which it says it will deliver to members of Congress to cheer them up.

And some are focused on February as Heart Health Month. CVS, for example, is celebrating Feb. 14 with free heart-health screenings at all of its MinuteClinic locations.

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