For Valentine's Day, Mixed Signals in the UK

Average outlays to climb 12% this year, even as alternatives arise

Author: Cliff Annicelli

February 14, 2017

Valentine’s Day has limited appeal in the UK, according to a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), but spending was expected to rise by double digits among those planning to buy gifts this year. 

According to a January 2017 poll of more than 2,000 adults in the UK by Opinium Research LLP for PwC , 52% of respondents didn’t plan to buy a gift for their loved one this Valentine’s Day. Moreover, 48% didn’t even expect to buy a card. 

However, those who did plan to spend on Valentine’s Day gifts said they would shell out more than they did last year. The average amount respondents planned to spend was £29.89 ($40.34), up 12% from £26.69 ($36.02) in 2016. 

Males planned to spend more than females—£39.70 ($53.58) vs. £20.42 ($27.56)—the study found. PwC calculates that a total of £458.7 million ($619.1 million) will be spent on Valentine’s Day in the UK this year. 

PwC’s estimate would see spending in 2017 outpace the 2% rise Mintel estimated UK consumers would spend on Valentine’s Day gifts in 2016, even if the total value of 2017 spending was well below the £470 million ($718.3 million) Mintel forecast for last year. 

Value aside, spending was more likely to occur at physical stores than online, according to PwC’s study. “For Valentine’s Day purchases, consumers do still seem to prefer the high street experience to shopping online,” said Madeleine Thomson, retail and consumer leader at PwC. “Our survey reveals that 49% of people who plan to buy something for Valentine’s Day plan to do so in-store, compared to 30% on laptop or desktop.” 

That spending could look different than the traditional flowers and chocolate, however. Nearly three in 10 respondents (29%) said they would prefer a gift related to travel or leisure. Approximately a fifth (21%) of respondents said they were most likely to give small, personal gifts, such as handmade items. 

Search stats from Google also hint at the ever-evolving state of Valentine’s Day in the UK. In 2016, there were 2.5 times more Google UK search queries looking for gifts for “him/boyfriend/husband” than for “her/girlfriend/wife,” according to the company. However, searches for gifts for girls were rising nearly nine times faster than gifts for guys in the run-up to this year’s holiday. 

Alternatives to Valentine’s Day were rising too, according to Google, with interest in the likes of Galentine’s Day (an idea promulgated by the US TV series “Parks and Recreation” and held on February 13) and Singles Awareness Day (held on February 15) increasing by as much as 44% compared with 2016.