Consumers say they plan to spend an average of $102.50 on Valentine's gifts and merchandise this year, compared with $122.98 per person in 2008. And while much of the total Valentine's Day spending of $14.7 billion is expected to go to the usual categories--with 35.7% of people planning to buy flowers and 16% planning to buy jewelry, about the same as last year--there are some shifts as well. More shoppers-- 58% compared with 56.8% last year--plan to buy cards. And fewer plan to buy candy (45.8% versus 47.7% last year) or head out for an evening (47% versus 48.2% last year.)
"This year, more than ever, consumers will look for creative and inexpensive ways to show those they love how much they mean to them," the NRF predicts, with more than 90% of people lavishing most of their money on a spouse and children typically getting just a fifth of the cash designated for Cupid. (The NRF poll, conducted by BIGResearch, is based on more than 8,800 adult respondents.)
Others predict even bigger declines for restaurants. A survey from Whole Foods Markets says that an astonishing 81% of married people would prefer a meal cooked by their spouse to a restaurant meal. While half of the respondents acknowledged the weak economy as part of their preference, 64% also say they also believe a home-cooked meal is more intimate or special, and 73% believe it's more personal and thoughtful.
That sentiment could prove problematic for the restaurant business, which increasingly finds itself the target of family cost-cutting edicts. The National Restaurant Association, which says that typically, Valentine's Day is the third-most-popular day of the year to dine out (following a person's birthday and Mother's Day), recently posted a letter it sent to personal finance guru Suze Orman, after she advised listeners to "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to stay out of restaurants for one month to save money.
"During this difficult economic period," it wrote, explaining the number of jobs at stake in the industry, "we hope you will not encourage action that could cost jobs and hurt some of the very recession-pinched Americans that you seek to help."