Valentine's Day

Whether you are buying something for your sweetie, your dog or yourself, Valentine’s Day is the time when consumers spend money on gifts and experiences to show someone they care. Known as the second-highest holiday spending period, dollars are spent at large retail stores, local shops, online and more. Many businesses in the Grand Rapids area see a boost in their sales for the first time since the Christmas holiday season. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated that consumers in America would spend $27.4 billion on gifts in 2020 for Valentine’s Day. This is a significant jump from 2019’s $20.7 billion spent. This number can be broken down into the following categories: 

$14.1 billion spent on significant others or spouses.

$4.2 billion spent on other family members.

$2.1 billion spent on friends.

$2.0 billion spent on children’s classmates and teachers.

$1.8 billion spent on co-workers.

$1.7 billion spent on pets.

$1.5 billion spent on other areas.

According to the NRF’s annual Valentine’s Day consumer spending survey, 55% of Americans plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Consumers will spend $191.31 on average. 

“The unusually large increase in average spending appears to be due to strong consumer finances and a continued trend of consumers buying more gifts, cards, candy and flowers for friends, family, co-workers and pets,” according to the NRF. “The increase in total spending comes as the number of people celebrating Valentine’s Day returned to 55 percent, about average for the past decade, after a dip to 51 percent last year.”

The top five purchases on Valentine’s Day, in order from most to least frequently bought, are candy, greeting cards, evening out purchases, flowers and jewelry. The ever popular tradition of gifting a box of chocolates began in the 19th century, according to the History Channel. Richard Cadbury, the heir of a British chocolate manufacturing family, took advantage of the opportunity to sell more chocolate around this holiday as the company was working to create more varieties of chocolate. 

One of the other top gifts is, naturally, flowers. Local shops in Grand Rapids—Shaw Florists and Blue Iris—shared their experiences during this very busy time of the year. Sam Riehle, with Shaw Florists, said they have to fit a whole month of work into just three days as most people like to get their flowers close to the Valentine’s Day holiday, if not on the actual day. 

“As soon as Christmas is done we pretty much spend the whole month of January prepping,” Riehle said. 

Shaw Florists has been in the area for 70 years and Riehle bought the business in 1985. She noted while it is quite hectic around Valentine’s Day, they use extra cooler space and even bring in extra employees to ease some of the workload. Speaking to her on the Wednesday before Valentine’s Day, she said business had already been busy and that Thursday was looking to be a good day too. 

 “I would like to say thank you to people who entrust us with their orders,” said Riehle. “I am very proud and honored to be able to express that for people.”

Eileen Harrison with Blue Iris noted some of the changing trends she’s seen as people are selecting their flowers. Some of the flowers she’s prepared for this Valentine’s Day include sunflowers, carnations, pink and lavender roses, and of course, the classic red rose. 

“There isn’t really a trend that’s following in my shop,” Harrison remarked. 

How this year’s sales at Blue Iris will go depends on many factors.  The fact that Valentine’s Day fell on Friday this year suggests that people may go out for the evening, rather than buying flowers, said Harrison. Additionally, consumers are able to buy flowers at many places now, including retail and grocery stores. Harrison noted the extensive process flowers go through at a florist’s shop, compared to those at other stores, may make the higher price worth it for consumers. 

“All of those factors play into effect,” Harrison said. 

There are gifts that are unwanted on this day of love, as the NRF reports. The least-desired gifts include tools, gym memberships, sporting equipment, kitchen appliances, cheesy stuffed animals and mixtapes. But whether you bought flowers or candy, jewelry or cards, Valentine’s Day is a huge day for businesses across the country and is likely to continue it’s strong impact on sales. 

For those who may have missed their opportunity this past week, there may be time still to go out and get something for yourself or the one you love. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll be heading straight to the candy aisle for all of the clearanced Valentine’s Day candy. 


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