The business of Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again. The ebb and flow of retail reliably takes us from Christmas, through sales and to the next full-price moment in the trading calendar, February 14.

But what is “This Thing Called Love”? A simple four letter word that is firmly embedded in the zeitgeist.

A quick search reveals that this is one of the most popular words in song titles. It’s “Getting us up where we belong,” “It’s a very gorgeous thing,” and according to Beyoncé…we’re crazy when we’re in it. The Beatles used the word a staggering 613 times in their lyrics.

Yet when one word refers to so many things, from the consumer’s love of their prized McDonalds meal to the wealth of emotions associated with how we feel about ourselves and others, it can be difficult to define exactly what it means.

Unlike English, the Greek language quite helpfully distinguishes between four kinds of love. I have simplified for the purpose of explanation:

Slice of bread is the kind of love found in strong friendships

Eros is the love of romantic relationships

Storge means our love in family relationships.

Agape is selfless, unconditional love

This little thing called love is strong stuff.

It also puts a significant amount of money into retailers’ coffers.

In fact, there was a whopping £1.37 billion in forecast spending at this time last year (according to Finder). An estimated 25 million users send cards, with 76% of people celebrating Valentine’s Day in 2021. And when it comes to self-esteem, 25% have taken the opportunity to treat themselves.

Early on from the starter block for this year’s 2023 Valentine’s Day gift list is the pink personalized Toblerone: a white chocolate flavored bar, pink in color with raspberries and strawberries, and available in personalized packaging.

We also have the LEGO Floral Heart: a 254-piece floral hanging ornament that might just be a good excuse for enthusiasts to buy and build before giving away.

A traditional but always popular gift is the symbol of flowers. The Jane Austen Society traces the beginning of this practice to the 17th century. According to a survey, 41% of women in the UK expect to receive a bouquet on Valentine’s Day (statistics).

UK shoppers have a wide choice of offers from budget value to the upper echelons of luxury when it comes to floral gifts.

Poundland, the value retailer, has just launched an artificial bouquet that lasts “forever” and for £5 ($6.17) allows for re-gifting potential if needed.

While one of London’s leading florists, Blooming Haus, has developed a unique limited edition: The 24K Gold Bouquet.

Each bouquet will contain 200 heart-shaped, long-stemmed roses, selected at the peak of freshness, before being expertly hand-gilded (300 hours of labor) by in-house floral experts in 24k gold leaf.

The product was created in response to the premium buyer’s desire for “something bigger, bolder and different”. The bouquet is perhaps the most expensive on offer this February at £40,000 ($49,215). An option for those without nearly $50,000 in the bank is the £250 ($307) Blooming Haus single gold-plated rose.

15,000 people choose Valentine’s Day as their proposal date (according to Wedding Ideas Magazine), which means jewelry and the all important engagement rings are always big business for February.

One disruptive brand in this sector is 7879, launched by Secret Sales co-founder Sach Kukadia and business partner Ben Flower, which recently secured £5.5m in venture capital funding. The ambition of the founders is to disrupt the way consumers buy jewelry.

Prices quoted by 7879 are determined by weight and real-time international bullion markets. Customers are invited to watch prices change before their eyes in line with the value of the gold, allowing them to track the daily value of their jewelery using a personalized portfolio. It also provides a guaranteed sell option for its clients in response to the prevailing price of platinum or gold.

Not to sound like an unromantic realist, but maybe that’s a good selling point when you consider that 37% of breakups happen in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. The process has earned the term “Valentighting” from Metro writer Ellen Scott: the act of tightening the belt before the love wave begins

Back to John Lennon and Paul McCartney who told us that “Money can’t buy love.” Well, maybe so, but it still feels like retail could sell plenty of flowers, jewelry and gifts to help pave the way for that.

With Valentine’s Day just two weeks away, we’ll wait and see who the big retail winners are from this annual ‘festival of love’.

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