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UK’s Valentine’s Day spend to grow 26% this year as retailers up their online capabilities in readiness

Love is in the air: but how can retailers capitalise on it?

UK consumers are set to spend around £787m around Valentine’s Day, with two thirds of retailers saying that they have enhanced their ecommerce platforms in anticipation of sales increasing by as much as 26%. The predicted boost is also seeing 40% of retailers feeling more optimistic about the months ahead.

According to research ahead of the big day by Barclaycard Payments, 41% of UK retailers expect a sales boost this week, with almost two thirds (63%) of retailers have enhanced their ecommerce capabilities, with three in 10 (31%) boosting their online advertising. A further 27% expanding their product or service offerings. One in four is increasing online stock availability. 

This anticipated uplift in sales is also increasing optimism, as 37% say it’s making them feel more optimistic about their business’ future.

A very virtual Valentine’s

As UK consumers prepare to spend the day in lockdown, many couples are looking to make the most of the occasion with 70% of those living with a partner planning to celebrate. 

More than a quarter (26%) are organising an ‘at home’ date night, while other popular activities include ordering a takeaway (17%), dining in with a supermarket meal (8%) and going for a romantic walk (8%).

Savvy retailers are also adapting to cater for the six in 10 (62%) couples who live apart but who want to mark the event. More than half (52%) are offering specific ‘Virtual Valentine’s’ products, including a broader range of gifts (24%), vouchers which can be redeemed at a later date (20%) and chocolates to be delivered to the recipients’ door (15%).

Some businesses are also capitalising on the rising trend of lockdown date nights. One in seven retailers (14%) is selling Valentine’s Day takeaway boxes for food and drink, and 10% is offering a romantic online experience for the night, such as cocktail making or a cookery lesson.

What retailers say

Elizabeth Galton, Marketing Director at Ernest Jones comments: “The impact of the pandemic restrictions has certainly challenged us to think differently about this Valentine’s Day. Despite the shift in focus from store to online, we’ve kept the shopping experience alive for our customers. We’ve seen significant adoption of our personalised virtual ‘Talk to an Expert’ appointments and Live Chat service, and these are just some of the ways we have adapted our business.”

She adds: “Our store colleagues have worked hard to guide clients through virtual purchases– enhancing the experience by providing all the advice and counsel they would normally receive in-store. We’re pleased our virtual appointments and virtual try on service for engagement rings have been so popular with customers. As a result of these initiatives, we have seen an increase in branded and fine diamonds jewellery sales, traditionally popular time at this time of year.”

Charlotte Langley, Brand & Communications Director at Bloom & Wild, says: “As an online brand and the inventor of letterbox flowers, Bloom & Wild has rooted itself in keeping loved ones – near and far – connected through thoughtful gifts. This year we have focused on making our range more thoughtful than ever. Based on the insight that 79% would prefer a unique and thoughtful gift over something traditional like red roses, we won’t be selling them at all this year. Instead, our unique bouquets are all about saying ‘I know you’ and showing how wildly you care.”

Kirsty Morris, Managing Director at Barclaycard Payments says: “Businesses need to be able to adapt to consumer behaviours and trends and this couldn’t be more true for this Valentine’s Day. While some gifting traditions stand the test of time, the way we’re purchasing these items is certainly different this year.”

Morris concludes: “It’s encouraging to see retailers have remained agile throughout the pandemic and are supporting their customers in new ways – whether that’s sending flowers with same-day-delivery, offering personal shopping experiences online, or expanding products and services to meet new demand. It’s great that this popular occasion is bringing some much needed optimism to retailers, and giving them confidence in the future of their businesses.” 

Love isn’t in the air for everyone

However, things aren’t rosy for everyone. Despite 35% of the population being single, 66% of UK consumers will not be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year, according to separate research from leading experience analytics company Contentsquare.


The research, which surveyed 1,000 UK consumers, found that of those deciding not to celebrate Valentine’s Day, 15% said that their decision is directly related to COVID-19. Of those who are celebrating this year, many will be cutting back to save on costs, with almost a quarter (24%) planning to spend less than £50 on gifts this year.

With the pandemic still rattling the global economy and impacting consumer habits both offline and online, businesses everywhere will be relying on ecommerce to hit their Valentine’s Day sales targets. But many brands still lack crucial insight into what constitutes a loveable experience in the eyes of their customers.

A survey of 500 marketers carried out by Contentsquare found that 76% of marketers are unable to accurately measure whether their customers are happy online. And a whopping 84% said they can’t track their customers’ moods and mindsets. With marketers saying they need 8+ tools on average to understand digital customer behaviour, it seems that many brands still have some way to go to shrinking the dreaded experience gap and maximising their digital revenue.

Commenting on the findings, Michal Barash, Head of Marketing at Contentsquare says: “Retailers need to make sure they show their digital customer experience some extra love this year, as the ongoing health crisis continues to drive consumers online for gift giving. This, coupled with more conservative spending predictions, should come as extra motivation for brands to remove any friction along the customer journey.”

Barash adds: “If brands can build an online experience that is just as good, or better, than in-store experiences, they will ensure happy, loyal customers, and see a boost in revenue online this Valentine’s Day.”

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