The arrow loosed from Cupid’s bow may travel a slightly different path in this extraordinary year. According to the National Retail Federation[i], fewer couples than ever will celebrate the occasion with a dinner out. St. Luke’s Health even suggests alternative activities like playing online party games as a date for couples who don’t live together or as a substitute for flirty singles mixers[ii]. The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems – we can use our digital world to recreate the things we love the most about the real one. We asked our survey population of 1000 men and women to find out: to what extent will love spring eternal this year? Or can physical absence make the heart grow fonder?
The first question we asked our survey population was whether they planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day at all this year. All things considered, lockdowns and pandemic stress have taken their toll on all of us. But to our surprise, over 80% of respondents said they celebrate Valentine’s Day. An encouraging first result for the romantics among us, to be sure!
One stay-at-home superstar has been the subscription box. We won’t list them all here but suffice to say – if you can think of it, there’s probably a subscription box for it out there somewhere. A recent online survey found that more than half of Valentine’s Day shoppers looked to buy gifts from Amazon or Wal-Mart, while those looking for “experiences” declined sharply from last year[iii]. Interestingly, three in five women in our survey preferred subscription gifts, while just over two in five men preferred the same
According to projections from the National Retail Foundation’s Valentine’s Day data center[iv], the expected total spending this year will be over 21 billion dollars, a 20% decline from last year but, curiously, still the second-highest year on record. Also of interest is the breakdown by gender – in our survey, males expected to spend nearly 140 dollars, while females expected to spend around half that amount.
We next looked at what people actually wanted to buy with their hard-earned money in this trying economic cycle. The most popular gifts for both men and women were wine, chocolate and flowers, although women were almost three times as likely to favor flowers as men. Women were also more than twice as likely to prefer jewelry. For males in the “other” category, it is worth mentioning, nearly half of the listed responses were “sex.” Females in the “other” category, on the other hand, listed a “sex toy” at least one in four times.
It is a modern-day stereotype that an exercise bike is a terrible gift for the special person in your life, but it may actually be more literal than once believed. A roundup from last year’s festivities published by CRN explicitly states: “getting your sweetheart a Peloton for Valentine’s Day is not advisable,” and we agree. So do our survey respondents: one in five men and nearly two in five women said “workout equipment” was the single worst gift they could receive from their lover[v]. For both men and women, “teddy bears” and “money” were a close second and third, although men were slightly more comfortable receiving a teddy bear than women.
Switching gears, we asked our respondents how important Valentine’s Day was to them personally. Sorted by age, men tended to think less of the holiday in every decade of life up until their retirement years – in the 65+ age group, men thought more highly of the holiday than any other group aside from the 18-24 demographic. Women, on the other hand, thought highly of the holiday in the 18-24 group, 45-54 group and 55-64 group, while those in the other divisions thought less highly of it. In every group, women ranked the holiday higher than men did, except for the 65+ group. Looks like there are a lot of seasoned male romantics out there!
Overall, we found some predictable trends along the lines of holiday spending, preferred gifts and the relative importance of the holiday to younger and older men and women. Google found that search terms containing some variation of “for men” outnumbered those “for women” by a factor of 3.5 to 1[vi]. In this aspect, women may indeed be the fairer sex. Some florists are actually busier this year than last year, owing to the prevalence of “flowergrams” and, unfortunately, demand for flowers due to funerals[vii]. As love can find its way even in this difficult time, we can only hope that hope itself springs eternal as well.
All participants were screened using a two-pronged approach: (1) description of selection criteria with a requirement for self-acknowledgement and acceptance, and (2) directly asking each participant to confirm that they have a firm understanding of what Valentine's Day is. A total of 1154 attempts were made to take the online study, with 149 eliminated for: (1) Not being located in the USA, (2) not understanding what Valentine's day is, (3) not completing the survey, (4) being the wrong gender for the gender specific surveys, or (5) a mixture of these. Additionally, 2 response sets were eliminated for having duplicate IP addresses, for a total of 151 eliminations, yielding a final completion rate of 86.94%, and a final n = 1,002. This study employed an online survey using a convenience sampling methodology via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, with a subsequent posteriori exploratory, correlational data analysis methodology employed after completion of data scrubbing via Microsoft Excel and data visualization via Tableau.
Please feel free! All that we ask is that you include a link back to this page so your readers can view the full study.