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Millennials reshape Valentine’s Day shopping trends

The statistics from 2019 show that Valentine’s Day trends are heading in opposite directions.

As Millennials begin to surpass Baby Boomers as the United States’ largest adult population, sentiments and spending habits are changing as well — perfectly illustrated by the traditional February holiday. In 2019, the number of Americans who planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day dropped to 51%, but those who said they do celebrate actually spent more (at $162 per person). Overall spending for the holiday was projected to eclipse $20 billion for the first time last year.

Millennials tend to do things differently, and that change in attitudes is reshaping Valentine’s Day shopping trends.


The heart of it all

Celebrated on February 14, Valentine’s Day (also referred to as St. Valentine’s Day) is historically a salute to love all around the world. The Christian feast day was established around 500 A.D., though there are conflicting stories about three saints named Valentine or Valentinus for whom the feast day was named.

As a way to acknowledge and celebrate the holiday, the first commercialized exchange of valentines occurred in the 18th century in England. Spending has only increased since.


Valentine’s Day consumer insights

The amount of money spent on Valentine’s Day might still be increasing, but individual participation appears to be waning. Those who choose not to celebrate said they found the holiday over-commercialized, did not have a partner to celebrate with, or were simply disinterested.

According to the National Retail Federation, adult consumers are showing less enthusiasm for the holiday than they did a decade ago. In 2009, 72% of consumers aged 18 to 34 and 65% of adults aged 35 to 54 celebrated Valentine’s Day. Ten years later, only around half of the surveyed adults across all age groups planned festivities.

One might think these Valentine’s Day trends stem from Millennials’ inclination to delay major life decisions compared to previous generations. Millennials are staying single longer, and they are getting married later in life. In 1965, the median age of first marriages was just under 21 for women. Today, that number exceeds 27. Men have also been waiting longer, going from a median age of 22.8 in 1965 to 29.8 in 2018.

However, older generations are actually the least likely to celebrate Valentine’s Day. According to the NRF, the 55-plus age group was consistently less likely to celebrate the holiday when compared to 18- to 34-year-olds and 35- to 54-year-olds.

How much do we spend on Valentine’s Day? Overall, Millennials spend an average of $161 on their partners, with 15% of younger Millennials expecting to spend more than $500. In comparison, Generation X consumers spend about $270, while Baby Boomers spend only about $150.


New Valentine’s Day trends

With fewer people celebrating Valentine’s Day, there has to be a reason for the increase in spending around the holiday. Truthfully, Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers. Many younger consumers who are not participating in Valentine’s Day are still choosing to mark the occasion one way or another.

Below are some of the Valentine’s Day shopping trends that are gaining popularity:

  1. Gifts for pets: According to the American Pet Products Association, Millennials make up more than one-third of all pet owners. Valentine’s Day has become a reason for them to splurge on their furry family members. Gifts for four-legged friends surpassed $885 million in 2019, according to the NRF. More than a quarter of consumers under the age of 35 buy Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets, and they spend more than older generations. Retailers and subscription services like PetSmart and BarkBox promote Valentine’s Day gifts, and Amazon offers gift guides for pets and owners alike.
  2. Galentine’s Day: Millennials see friendships as a one of the stabilizing factors in a changing world. The popular television show “Parks and Recreation” originally introduced consumers to the idea of Galentine’s Day, which centers on the concept of celebrating female friendships with gifts. In recent years, however, Galentine’s Day has hit the mainstream, with social media sites and online retailers directing consumers to goods that celebrate and empower women.
  3. Anti-Valentine’s Day: Some consumers are not fans of the in-your-face romanticism of Valentine’s Day, and they are going against the grain. Many bars and restaurants offer Anti-Valentine’s Day promotions, while other groups of friends will throw parties with music and food to celebrate singlehood. Approximately one-third of those under the age of 35 who choose not to celebrate the holiday opt to indulge in “me time,” whether that means giving themselves a gift or splurging on a day at the spa.
  4. Experiential gifts: For younger consumers who do celebrate Valentine’s Day, experience and adventure tend to be more appealing gift options than the traditional flowers, candy, and greeting cards route. A romantic getaway or concert tickets allow for quality time and make gifts more unique and memorable.


Love to all

Even though only slightly more than half of Americans say they celebrate Valentine’s Day now, the holiday is still lucrative. Valentine’s Day is no longer just about romance with a significant other. It is quickly becoming an opportunity for consumers to showcase their affection for all people — and pets — in their lives. And businesses will be the ones feeling the love.


This article does not constitute legal, accounting, or other professional advice. Although the information contained herein is intended to be accurate, Cathay Bank does not assume liability for loss or damage due to reliance on such information.

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