Romantics go heartfelt but cheap for Valentine’s Day

Romantics go heartfelt but cheap for Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2009

Long-stemmed roses are being replaced by homemade cards. Theater tickets are being replaced by Netflix. Personal jewelry is being replaced by personal poems.

And even some preparing to propose today are seeking a bargain approach. On Yahoo, searches for “cheap engagement rings” are off the charts compared with a year ago, said Vera Chan, a trend analyst for the company.

Other searches that are up from last year are “cheap lingerie,” “free Valentine’s Day cards” and “homemade Valentine’s Day gifts.”

Valentine’s Day, a more discretionary holiday compared with birthdays and Christmas, is proving particularly vulnerable to the bursting of the economic bubble. Diamond jewelry sales are down 20 to 30 percent. Flower sales are likely to tighten as well, in part because the day falls on a Saturday.

In the current economic climate, many men say it comes as a great relief not to have to produce a material manifestation of an intangible emotion.

For Marc Matsumoto, 31, a New York marketing manager who was laid off in December, Valentine’s Days past meant splurging on $700 to $1,000 dinners, $400 and $500 dresses from Theory and Eli Tahari, and jewelry from Tiffany’s. This year, he and his wife are planning a meal at home.

Angeline Close, a business professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, who has studied consumer attitudes toward Valentine’s Day, says the reassessment of the day is forcing it back to its roots. It started out as an intimate card-giving occasion in the mid 1800s, then grew into the second-most-marketed holiday after Christmas.

“It became a card and chocolate,” Close said. “Then card, chocolate and roses, and then card, chocolate, roses and a lavish night out.”

Last year, consumers spent an average of $122.98 on Valentine’s Day gifts and merchandise, up from $80 in 2003, according to the National Retail Federation. With men, Close said, “a lot of it had to do with the whole one-upmanship.” This year, however, the average expense is expected to drop 17 percent, to $102.50, the federation said.

Source: Close, Angeline G. and George M. Zinkhan (2009), “Market Resistance and Valentine’s Day Events,” Journal of Business Research, (62) 2 (Feb), 200-207.