THE BLOG
08/02/2016 07:18 GMT | Updated 05/02/2017 05:12 GMT

Valentine's Day - 'Hallmark Holiday' or Hallmark Tradition?

Despite many of us moaning about Valentine's Day, it's clear that a huge number of us still enjoy celebrating it - and footing the bill. £1.3bn was shelled out by Britons in 2015, and Valentine celebrations this year are predicted to amount to a staggering £1.9bn.

With this in mind, Valentine's Day gifts are not limited to cards and flowers. Retailers of all shapes and sizes are now getting a piece of the action. Christmas is barely over and already the shops are a sea of red, and brands ranging from Revlon to Oreo have launched their Valentine's-inspired social media campaigns. Enhanced marketing efforts now means there's even something for the singletons among us, with Starbucks and Match.com this year launching their 'Meet at Starbucks' campaign, inviting people to join the 'world's largest Starbucks date'.

Cupid's arrow is clearly striking at our heart (and purse) strings. So, where did it all come from? How are we spending our money, and who is buying what, and where? While some of the behaviour and images associated with Valentine's Day might be fairly predictable, some of the facts might surprise you.

Not just a Hallmark Holiday

Although the more cynical among us will easily dismiss the occasion as purely created by retailers, the tradition of sending Valentine's Day cards has enjoyed a long history, predating the involvement of Hallmark. In fact, Geoffrey Chaucer's Parlement of Fowls is taken to be the first association of St Valentine's Day with love, and from the mid-18th Century, the passing of love notes became a popular practice in England. By the early 19th century, these notes became so popular that factories started to mass-produce them. It was only in 1913 that Hallmark produced their first Valentine's card.

Cadbury invented the heart shaped boxes of chocolates

Heart-shaped chocolate boxes, an image almost exclusively associated with Valentine's Day, was a streak of brilliance from no-other than Richard Cadbury of British national institution, Cadbury's chocolate in the 1860s.

These beautifully decorated boxes, designed by Richard himself, were adorned with familiar images of cupids and rose and marketed with the dual purpose that once the chocolates were all gone, they could be saved to hold romantic mementos and letters of loved ones.

The heart-shaped box was never patented by the Cadbury's but it's widely to be believed that it was the brainchild of Richard.

The boxes grew more elaborate until the outbreak of World War II, when sugar was rationed and celebrations of the day were scaled down, but chocolate remains a number one Valentine's gift today.

Gender divide

When we break down the predicted £1.9b spend for this year, £730m will be splashed out on dining, £461m on gifts, £211m on flowers, £115m on chocolates and £57m on cards. But when we look at who is spending this money, it's men who are spending considerably more than women on their partners, with an average of £70.49, compared with £39.48.

Research from Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research, sponsored by KPMG put this down to the fact that women are much more likely to show love to a variety of people in their life - children, friends, colleagues - rather than just their partner. By contrast, it argues, Valentine's Day is likely to bring out a competitive streak in men, who are not willing to be outdone in the spending steaks by their other half.

Cashier number three please

When it comes to Valentine's Day shopping, Brick-and-mortar stores are preferred over 'e-tail' alternatives. Around two-thirds of people bought their purchases on the high street last year. This isn't just limited to the smaller, independent retailers - some supermarkets saw 37% of gifts for the occasion bought in these one-stop-shop outlets.

Many of the supermarket giants are also going to town in creating exciting in store experiences. Waitrose, for example, is this year projecting Valentine's themed images outside a handful of their stores, helping to bring to life the romance of the occasion and engage with their customers.

Not only is Valentine's Day an opportunity to spoil our loved ones, but it is has also become a key opportunity for brands to connect with their customers and to express their identity. Contrary to popular belief, the day has enjoyed a long history, and many of its traditions, and the shopping behaviours associated with these, have endured over time.