Americans expected to spend $26 billion for Valentine’s Day

Tim Ludwig knows a thing or two about selling flowers. His family’s flower shop, Jim Ludwig’s Blumengarten Florist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has been around since 1929. And the fifth-generation florist thinks this Valentine’s Day, they’re going to sell more flowers than last year. And this isn’t about prices.

“Historically, Tuesday is one of the best days for florists for Valentine’s Day to fall on, so while overall you hear fears of recession and things like that, I think for florists, spending will be above what it was last year,” Ludwig said.

And he’s not alone in his optimism. Love is in the air as the U.S. comes out of the pandemic, with Amercians expected to spend nearly $26 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, up from $23.9 billion last year and one of the highest amounts to date. 

Even as inflation over the past year puts a burden on consumers and businesses across the country – people are putting money and effort toward those they care about most. More than half of consumers are planning to celebrate in some way and will spend on average about $192.80. That’s up from $175.41 last year, and is the second highest figure since the National Retail Federation began Valentine’s Day tracking in 2004.

The survey found people are not just focused on their significant others and family this year; more are also looking to show appreciation for others in their lives. Of the $17 increase per person on spending, most of it comes from people looking to purchase gifts for friends, co-workers, classmates, teachers and even their pets.

The group spending the most for the holiday: consumers ages 35 to 44, who are spending an average $335.71 this Valentine’s Day on gifts and other items – about $142.91 more than the average consumer celebrating. 

The top gifts this year include candy at 57%, greeting cards at 40%, flowers at 37%, an evening out at 32% and jewelry at 21%. Americans plan to spend more than $5.5 billion on jewelry and nearly $4.4 billion on an evening out. Other items on the list include gift cards and clothing. 

The survey is based on consumer spending plans, so it does not factor in inflation. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers don’t necessarily factor inflation into their estimations when they spend on specific events.

Holley Simmons, owner of She Loves Me in Washington, D.C., prepares a Valentine's Day bouquet.
Holley Simmons, owner of She Loves Me in Washington, D.C., prepares a Valentine’s Day bouquet.

Sarah Ewall-Wice / CBS News

Fresh flowers
Fresh flowers are ready to become Valentine’s Day bouquets at She Loves Me in Washington, D.C.

Sarah Ewall-Wice / CBS News

But costs have been on the rise. While some recent signs indicate inflation on goods is starting to ease, prices remain elevated in many cases. For some popular Valentine’s Day items, the cost of candy is up more than 11% from a year ago, stationery and gift wrap is up 16%, a meal away from home is up more than 8%, jewelry is up nearly 6% and flowers are up more than 6%. 

During the pandemic, florists had it tough — flower growers stopped production, since there weren’t big events like weddings, said Holley Simmons, who has owned the shop She Loves Me in Washington, D.C., for the past five years. There are still some supply chain disruptions, like for winter weather, when florists have to ship in flowers rather than work with local growers, but not to the same extent. Overall, however, supply issues have led to higher prices.

“Things that we’ve seen costing $1 the last couple of years are now $1.50. Doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re ordering hundreds of these stems, it really adds up, and we’re forced to increase our prices to account for it,” said Simmons. “If it goes into a bouquet, we’re paying a little more for it these days.”

Despite that, she says customers who are drawn to flowers understand, and she sees them coming back year over year. She also has noticed her business has started selling more dried flowers – which last forever. This year her shop is even teaming up for a cause, partnering with a dog rescue, so for those who donate $35, their flower deliveries come with a quick rescue pup visit.  

Dried Flowers
Dried flowers at She Loves Me in Washington, D.C. Owner Holley Simmons said the preserved blooms are growing in popularity.

Sarah Ewall-Wice / CBS News

While prices are not stopping people from buying gifts for the people they love nationwide – people also love a good discount. According to Phil Rist, executive vice president of strategy at Prosper Insights and Analytics, which partnered with the federation on the survey, more than half of customers said they will take advantage of sales and promotions while celebrating Valentine’s Day this year. 

Even among those not planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the survey found 28% said they will still mark the occasion in some way, either by treating themselves to something special, such as a get together with friends or family or a non-Valentine’s Day gift. 

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