12 Feb 2024

Love is not all around for retailers: 24 million will skip Valentine’s gifting

  • 54% of UK adults aren’t going to buy gifts this Valentine’s Day
  • Under 35s are more than twice as likely to buy cards, gifts and experiences
  • Limited spend and a growing focus on experience-based gifts should be cause for concern for retailers

New research from customer experience marketing agency Gekko Group suggests that Valentine’s Day is no longer the retail bonanza of old, with over half of UK adults (54%) not bothering to buy any gifts for their significant others, friends or family members.

Of the 46 per cent UK adults that will buy gifts, only 13% plan to spend more than £50 on a gift, with consumers most likely to spend up to £20 on a gift (34%), so not great news for those big-ticket retailers. In fact, people are likely to spend less on significant others than they would on family and friends, which is perhaps due to the changing relationship dynamics in society.

Young love still drives Valentine’s Day with nearly three in five (58%) of those aged between 18 and 35 agreeing that it is important to mark the day with those you love, including friends and family. This age group are more than twice as likely to buy cards, gifts and experiences for loved ones as over 55s (65% v 31%).

Another trend that was evident in the research is that experiences are becoming far more popular as a Valentine’s Day gift preference, with 37 per cent of adults saying they prefer to give experiences over physical gifts. This includes taking a significant other to dinner (27%) or gifting an experience like gig tickets and wine tasting (6%).

This shift towards experiences suggests that retailers may need to reframe their strategy to rely less on the gifting moments throughout the year. More than two-thirds (67%) dislike the consumerism associated with gifting days and moments, with nearly three-quarters agreeing that retailers put too much focus on Valentine’s Day.

With most consumers inclined to purchase fewer, less expensive physical gifts, retailers are left trying to entice a smaller share of the market. A quarter (25%) of consumers agreed that discounts would encourage them to buy physical gifts, but ideas that would help make a gift ‘extra-special’ also appealed to consumers, particularly 18-34-year-olds. 15 per cent of UK adults agreed that product personalisation would encourage them to spend, and 12 per cent liked the idea of limited-edition products, increasing to 22 per cent and 20 per cent respectively amongst under 35s.

Daniel Todaro, MD at Gekko Group, said: “With consumers’ focusing more on experiences and creating memories with their loved ones, amongst growing disaffection with commercialised gifting moments, retailers will have to reinvent their strategies so that they can get a larger piece of the shrinking heart-shaped pie. And while offering discounts is one way to go, it would be best for competing retailers to avoid a race to the bottom. Instead, setting your offer apart can help to drive differentiation, with personalisation, limited editions and even customer service itself all helping to make Valentine’s Day work harder.