Valentine’s Day spending is expected to rise across sales channels this year. While retail analysts from GlobalData say that shoppers will collectively spend more than £1bn (+0.7% on 2018) on their sweethearts, retail and shopper marketing agency Savvy says they’ll spend a more conservative £853m (+7.8%). Online florist Serenata Flowers says it’s already seeing sales up by 15% in the run-up to the event.
Both agree that the focus has shifted towards experiences, and away from products. “In recent years,” says Alastair Lockhart, insight director at Savvy, “we have seen how shoppers have focused their expenditure on events was they seek to make the most of time together with friends and family, but at the same time, retailers have invested more heavily in events, extending product ranges and improving in-store experiences.”
Nonetheless, Savvy predicts that shoppers will spend £152m on food this year, and £113m on jewellery. Those shoppers, it says, are looking to supermarkets (52%), Google (37%), friends and family (28%) and Facebook (19%) for inspiration, with retailers’ online websites cited by 15%.
Food and drink will be a draw for the many consumers planning to have a romantic meal at home, according to GlobalData. “Consumers want to participate in this event, however, for many, spending on dining out and a lavish gift is not affordable,” said Zoe Mills, GlobalData retail analyst. “This is a positive result for retailers who may be seeing a lull in footfall after the busy Christmas peak. The focus on product quality among the discounters is forecast to hinder growth in the food and drink market as shoppers trade down, however growth in this category remains robust at 1.3% in 2019, compared to +1.5% in 2018.” She said that the amount spent on gifts – typically including jewellery, chocolates, champagne and prosecco – would be less than on other events. “Retailers should highlight different price points in their Valentine’s Day gifting ranges to ensure customers can find an option that is affordable for them,” said Mills.
Staying relevant is also key, says David Buckingham, chief executive of point of sale technology company Ecrebo. “Seasonal events such as Valentine’s Day provide a prime opportunity for retailers to drive footfall and increase sales,” he said. “However, it’s important not to forgo personalisation in favour of mass promotions. All-year round rewards are one of the things that keep customers coming back. As a result, there should be a balance between delivering day-to-day value and event-driven promotions.
“One of the ways to do this is to ensure that during peak periods, retailers communicate with their customers in relevant ways which will encourage upsell, rather than subsidising already planned purchases.”
Already, says online florist Serenata Flowers, a member of InternetRetailing’s Growth 2000 index, shoppers are spending more on flowers – and it says its sales for the two weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day are already 15% ahead of last year’s.
Martin Johansson, managing director at Serenata Flowers, said: "We’re thrilled to be enjoying a continued strong sales performance, including the important festive trading dates and the pre-Valentine’s Day gifting period. It’s clear that consumers more easily justifying spending on family, friends and loved ones right now, rather than on themselves. Our business model enables this consumer want, through an efficient and simplistic order service that delivers value for money also.
“Despite Brexit uncertainty, we are predicting a strong retail sales growth overall for Q1 2019, which underlines the strength of the Serenata Flowers brand online. We believe that our commitment to adapting to changing customer shopping behaviours and the flexibility of our alternative ecommerce model will stand the business in good stead come the Brexit deadline in March.”