Famous for being a day to shower your significant other with romantic gifts, and send the message “I love you”, Valentine’s Day is one of the most celebrated holidays of the year. Here we’ve brought together a comprehensive overview of Valentine’s Day industry statistics and trends, including shifts in production, employment, consumer sentiment, consumer spending, COVID-19 implications, floristry practices, and floriculture both Globally and in the United States. We’ve also detailed the history and origins of Valentine’s Day, dating back to Ancient Rome.
The History & Origins of Valentine’s Day
The exact origins of Valentine’s Day are still disputed by historians, but the festival seems to have come from Roman times.
The most commonly believed origin of Valentine’s Day concerns a Roman priest named Valentine. In the 3rd Century AD, Rome was ruled by Emperor Claudius II. One of Claudius’ decrees was that marriage should be outlawed for young men because it would make them better soldiers.
This policy was unpopular, so Valentine secretly continued to carry out wedding ceremonies. Once Valentine’s defiance was discovered, Claudius sentenced him to death. It’s here that things get a bit murky with conflicting legends about the origins of Valentine’s Day.
According to some traditions, Valentine was imprisoned and fell in love with his jailer’s daughter while the priest was awaiting execution. To confess his love for her before he died, Valentine left her a note that ended with “From your Valentine”.
Other legends claim that Valentine tried to help imprisoned Christians escape from the Romans, but was caught. This version of the tale can sometimes be combined with Valentine’s prison romance described above.
Valentine was executed on the 14th of February in 269 AD, becoming a martyr and a saint in the eyes of the Christian Church. In 496 AD, the Roman Pope Gelasius I declared that the 14th of February should be celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day.
But there is another suggestion for the origins of Valentine’s Day. Before Christianity became the dominant religion in Europe, the Romans celebrated a pagan festival called Lupercalia. This was held on the 15th of February to celebrate fertility along with Romulus and Remus – the mythical founders of Rome.
This festival involved a goat being sacrificed by the Luperci priests. The hide would be dipped in blood, and women would volunteer to be touched by these strips with the belief that this would improve their fertility.
Another tradition of this festival involved a large urn, which was filled with the names of young women. A group of young men would then pick names from the urn at random before spending the day with their chosen lady. In many cases, these unions would eventually lead to marriage.
The Lupercalia festival was outlawed by Gelasius as part of Christian suppression of pagan religion. St. Valentine’s Day replaced the festival and has been celebrated ever since.
The first known mention of Valentine’s Day came in 1375 AD from Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the most famous English poets in history. In 1415, a French duke called Charles was imprisoned after the Battle of Agincourt. While incarcerated, Charles wrote a touching Valentine’s Day poem to his wife.
Our modern concept of Valentine’s Day, much like some of our modern Christmas traditions, comes from the Victorians. During the 18th Century, it became common practice to send Valentine’s Day cards, which were produced en masse.
Today, Valentine’s Day is mainly celebrated across the world in many countries. It’s no longer a Christian tradition and is even celebrated in parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Here’s a breakdown of where Valentine’s Day is celebrated throughout the world:
|United States and the Americas|
|United States||Costa Rica|
|Asia and the Middle East|
Consumer Spending on Valentine’s Day
There’s no question that Valentine’s Day is big business. In our modern consumer culture, the money spent on Valentine’s Day is staggering. Here are some key facts:
- According to surveys carried out by the National Retail Foundation (NRF), American consumers planned to spend $21.8 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2021. This figure is a reduction from Valentine’s Day spending in 2020, most likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Based on historical figures provided by the NRF, here’s a table of spending totals for Valentine’s Day in the United States over the past 15 years. The amount has fluctuated over the years, with a record jump in 2020 before a reduction in 2021:
- The amount that Americans spend per person on Valentine’s Day has fluctuated over the past few years as well, based on data from the NRF. This average spending increased steadily from 2017 to 2020 before dropping in 2021.
|Year||Total Spending per person|
Men participating in Valentine’s Day spent an average of $231, while women planned to spend an average of approximately $101.
- This Valentine’s Day spending is distributed across several products and industries. Let’s look at the 2021 spending figures to find out where Americans are spending their Valentine’s Day dollars:
|Category||Percentage of spending|
|Special celebration or dinner at home||41%|
- The majority of Valentine’s Day spending happens online, although some consumers still visit physical stores or local businesses to purchase gifts.
|Spending location||Percentage of spending|
|Local store or small business||17%|
- In the UK, Valentine’s Day spending in 2021 was estimated to total approximately £926 million. This is a 36% decline from 2020’s staggering figure of £1.45 billion.
- The average UK consumer spent around £23 per person on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2021. This was a drop of over £10 from 2020’s data (£35 per person). Valentine’s Day spending per consumer in the UK has dropped by 17% over the past few years as UK shoppers spent an average of £28 per person on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
Consumer Sentiment Towards Valentine’s Day
Because Valentine’s Day is celebrated in so many countries across the globe, everyone approaches the holiday a bit differently. There is still a large section of many populations that don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day at all.
Over the past few years, there has been a growing trend for Valentine’s Day consumers to not only spend money on gifts for their significant other, but also for other family members, co-workers, and even their pets. Here are some facts and statistics on how people approach Valentine’s Day:
- 52% of American adults planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2021, according to the NRF’s survey. The survey took responses from almost 8000 people in January 2021. For an industry that only caters to half of the American population, the figures for Valentine’s Day are impressive.
- As might be expected, Americans dedicate the majority of their Valentine’s Day spending to their spouse or significant other, as much as 54%. However, there’s quite a spread as to how the rest of the cash is spent. Here’s a breakdown of who Americans buy gifts for on Valentine’s Day according to NRF data:
|Gift recipients||Percentage of spending|
|Spouse or significant other||54%|
|Other family members||17%|
|Children’s classmates or teachers||6%|
- The number of people who openly celebrate Valentine’s Day has largely been falling since 2009, when 63% of Americans said that they would participate. In 2021, the NRF recorded their second-lowest result for people who said that they’d celebrate Valentine’s Day (52%). Let’s take a look at how these numbers have changed over the past 13 years:
|Year||Percentage of population celebrating|
- Of the 48% of the population who said that they wouldn’t officially celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2021, nearly half of them said that they’d still mark the day in some fashion. For most people, that meant treating themselves instead of receiving a gift from someone else. 12% of women and 11% of men said that they would treat themselves as a way to mark Valentine’s Day.
- Of the American consumers (28% of the population) who bought flowers for Valentine’s Day in 2019, 16% of women said that they were buying flowers for themselves or having them sent to themselves.
- As a holiday that celebrates love and romance, it’s no surprise that many couples choose Valentine’s Day as the time to propose. In a survey by an events company that specializes in weddings, Valentine’s Day was the most common day for proposals – totaling 36% of the votes. According to other surveys, 10% of American couples get engaged on Valentine’s Day.
- But just as Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate love, it’s also a gut-wrenching time to end a relationship. A 2020 YouGovAmerica survey found that 7% of American adults, or one in 14 (there’s some irony there) have ended a relationship on Valentine’s Day.
The Flower Industry & Valentine’s Day
It’s no secret that the florist industry has a strong link to Valentine’s Day. Despite a decline in popularity, flowers are still one of the most common gifts that are exchanged on Valentine’s Day. But just how is the flower industry impacted by the holiday?
- According to MarketResearch.com, the American flower industry generates over $5 billion of revenue each year. Data from the Society of American Florists found that in 2019, Valentine’s Day accounted for 30% of the sales from all official holidays and 28% of the dollar volume for floristry businesses.
- In 2021, a post-holiday survey of florist businesses by the Society of American Florists indicated that Valentine’s Day flower sales were up 57% compared to 2020’s figures.
- In 2021, the American florist industry generated approximately $2 billion of revenue on Valentine’s Day. While this is an impressive figure, it’s actually less than the $2.3 billion that the sector generated for Valentine’s Day in 2020.
- The delivery firm UPS recorded a 50% increase in home deliveries of flowers on Valentine’s Day in 2021 compared to its figures for 2020. This was quite clearly a reaction by consumers to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- In the UK, only 31% of Valentine’s Day consumers intended to buy flowers as gifts for people in 2021 according to a survey by YouGov UK. That’s a sharp drop from the 46% recorded in 2020. However, a survey of florists in the UK by the British Florist Association found that nearly 70% of florists experienced an increase in online orders compared to 2020, as well as increases in orders for British native flowers.
- Roses were once again the most popular Valentine’s Day flower in many areas. Estimates put the total number of roses that are produced specifically for Valentine’s Day at over 250 million. In a survey by the Society of American Florists, 84% of their polls mentioned roses. Red roses were the most popular, mentioned by 69% of the survey. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular rose colors for Valentine’s Day:
|Rose Color||Percentage of survey|
- All of these flowers have to come from somewhere. Traditionally, the Netherlands has dominated the global production of cut flowers. But developing nations such as Colombia, Ecuador, and Kenya are catching up. In fact, Ecuador is the biggest producer and exporter of commercial roses in the world despite only accounting for 9% of global flower production in 2018. A whopping 70% of America’s cut flowers are imported from Columbia.
Here’s a hierarchy of the world’s biggest flower producers:
|Country||Percentage of global market (2018)|
- Market Research Reports – SAFNOW
- NBC 7 San Diego
- YOUGOV – British Floral Association
- Wikipedia – HortNews – Medium
The Environmental Impact of Valentine’s Day
But even though giving beautiful flowers to someone on Valentine’s Day is a lovely gesture, there is a dark side. With climate change and global warming rapidly becoming the biggest challenge that humans have ever faced, the environmental impact of Valentine’s Day can’t be ignored. Here are some of the facts:
- Because the majority of Valentine’s Day flowers, such as roses, are imported from Latin America, the biggest environmental impact of Valentine’s Day comes from freight transport. In the three weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day in 2018, almost 30 freight planes carry flowers into America every day, according to an investigation by the Washington Post.
- According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the environmental impact of these freight deliveries released around 360,000 metric tonnes of CO2 and used nearly 115 million liters of airplane fuel. This was all done to bring over 15,000 tonnes of flowers to the US in time for Valentine’s Day.
- Some studies claim that each individual cut flower that is transported overseas can produce up to 3 kg of CO2. So for the 250 million roses produced especially for Valentine’s Day, that means 750 million kg of CO2 is produced. Some estimates show that producing 100 million roses creates 9000 metric tons of CO2.
- To help produce the best possible blooms for consumers, many cut flower producers utilize a lot of chemical pesticides and other products. More pesticides are used on cut flowers than are used in food production, and as many as a fifth of the pesticides used to grow cut flowers are actually untested or banned in America.
- The figures show that in the UK in 2019, over £260 million was spent on clothing or lingerie on Valentine’s Day. But WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Program) estimates that as much as £30 billion of unworn clothing lurks in people’s closets. Even worse, £140 million worth of clothes gets thrown into landfills every year.
Valentine’s Day & Covid-19
When the Covid-19 pandemic began causing chaos across the world in early 2020, billions of people experienced a drastic change. Everything was impacted, and Valentine’s Day is no different. There are a few Valentine’s Day trends that have now emerged due to the pandemic:
- Perhaps the biggest impact that Covid-19 has had on Valentine’s Day has been a clear reduction in spending for most consumers. In the US, overall Valentine’s Day spending decreased from $27.4 billion in 2020 to $21.8 billion in 2021, with consumers spending an average of $164.76 per person in 2021 compared to $196.31 in 2020.
- But not only has the amount that people spend changed. What they choose to spend it on has shifted as well. Because of social contact restrictions and lockdowns affecting the restaurant industry, more people have decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special meal in their own homes rather than dining out at a fancy restaurant. According to an NRF survey, 41% of people celebrating Valentine’s Day said that they would spend money on a home celebration. The percentage of spending on dining out dropped by 10% from 2020 to 2021.
- Like many industries, Valentine’s Day saw online spending increase during the Coronavirus pandemic. 38% of all Valentine’s Day gifts were purchased online in 2021, up from approximately 32% in previous years.
- The Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t just changed spending habits either. It’s also affected how consumers actually view Valentine’s Day. According to data collected through NRF surveys, 73% of people believe that it’s important to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year because of the social repercussions of the pandemic.
This echoes sentiment from various industries, showing that consumers are placing more emphasis on the emotional value of holidays like Valentine’s Day, rather than the commercial aspects.
- People have also recognized the longevity of the pandemic and how it will continue to affect their lives. The NRF data shows that 74% of those celebrating Valentine’s Day have acknowledged that the Coronavirus situation has had a direct effect on how they plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
- Businesses across the world also changed their approach to Valentine’s Day in response to Covid-19. A UK survey by the British Florist Association reveals some interesting changes. Nearly 75% of UK florists offered a “Click and Collect” option for Valentine’s Day flowers.
Nearly 70% of the florists surveyed said that they saw a drastic increase in online sales for their flowers, which echoes spending trends across the globe.
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