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Surveys from American Express, Sears, and the National Retail Federation (NRF) point to strong jewelry sales leading up to Valentine's Day, February 14.
According to NRF’s 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGinsight, the average person celebrating the holiday will shell out $126.03, up 8.5 percent from 2011.
''As one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, it’s encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction,'' said NRF's president, Matthew Shay. ''Anticipating high foot-traffic in the coming weeks, retailers have replenished their inventories and will entice eager shoppers with great deals on everything from special menu items at restaurants to clothing to flowers and, of course, chocolates.''
The average person plans to spend $74.12 on their spouse or significant other, up from $68.98 in 2011. Additionally, consumers will spend and average of $25.25 on their children, parents or other family members and $6.92 on friends. Valentine’s Day is a great day for pet owners to show their furry friends just how much they mean: the average person will spend about $4.52 on their pets.
The survey also found the average male is expected to spend $168.74 on clothing, jewelry, greeting cards and more this year - nearly twice as much as women who are expected to spend an average of $85.76.
Of those who celebrate Valentine's Day, NRF found that 18.9 percent will buy jewelry, up from 17.3 percent in 2011. Some will give the gift of choice: 13.3 percent will buy gift cards, half of all celebrants will buy candy, 36 percent will buy flowers and 35.6 percent will treat someone to a nice evening out.
Total spending on jewelry is expected to reach $4.1 billion, up from $3.5 billion last year, according to the NRF. Second to jewelry, those with a case of the love bug will spend more than $3.5 billion on a special evening out. Consumers will also spend $1.8 billion on flowers, $1.5 billion on candy, $1.4 billion on clothing and $1.1 billion on gift cards.
While discount stores are expected to see the most traffic, one-third of shoppers will head to department stores and 19.3 percent will shop online for gifts.
In a national survey from Sears, 40 percent of the men and women in relationships say they expect or are planning to get engaged on February 14 this year. The survey was conducted by Sentient Decision Science for Sears. And for those not yet ready to take the big leap, 29 percent of women surveyed would choose jewelry if they could pick only one gift to receive for Valentine's Day this year.
Sears expanded its assortment of jewelry by 60 percent this year to feature a wide selection of watches, pendants, and engagement rings.
"A special piece of jewelry, especially on Valentine's Day, is perfect for symbolizing your love in its early stages and reaffirming the feeling long after," said David Tutera, the party planner and inspiration behind a line of engagement rings and wedding bands at Sears.
Following jewelry, women surveyed said that if they could choose only one gift, they would most want to receive flowers or chocolate (20 percent), perfume (9 percent), the latest technology product and lingerie (8 percent), a kitchen or home item (6 percent), shoes, handbag or other accessory item (5 percent), clothing item (5 percent), or a fitness/exercise item (1 percent).
While it has been said "it's the thought that counts," there is a clear disconnect between the sexes when it comes to Valentine's Day gift giving. The survey revealed that while 61 percent of men admit they have given a Valentine's Day gift that had no thought behind it, nearly eight in 10 women have received a gift that appeared to have no thought behind it.
"Valentine's Day is about expressing your feelings to those who mean the most to you," said Tutera. "Walk through a Sears store with your significant other in mind and you will quickly find many gift options that may hold special meaning for you as a couple, whether something traditional like jewelry or intimate apparel, or something unexpected like the newest high-tech gadget."
American Express determined that U.S. consumers expect to increase spending to an average of $196, up 8 percent from 2011. And while most will celebrate the year's biggest date night with flowers and dinner, four million plan to get engaged on February 14.
This year, more than half of consumers plan to purchase Valentine's Day gifts, and it's back to basics across the board. The most popular tokens of affection among couples include flowers (29 percent), gift cards (19 percent), jewelry (15 percent) and electronics (13 percent). Forty-six percent intend to visit their favorite restaurants to celebrate the holiday (up from 39 percent in 2011).
"Whether people are planning to get engaged, or just celebrate the holiday with flowers and a night out, consumers are telling us they can open their wallets a little wider for Valentine's day," said Sonali Chakravorti, the vice president at American Express. "We've seen a consistent trend of consumers saying they will spend more, from holiday shopping to travel plans and spending plans for February 14 are no exception."
Millions of Proposals Expected; But Will Consumers Have Cold Feet?
For some Americans, it will be a very happy Valentine's Day. Responses to the Spending & Saving Tracker indicate that four million consumers expect to propose, or be proposed to, over the holiday. Additionally, 14 million expect a proposal at some point in 2012. That's a whole lot more romantic than the actual experience of recent years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, just over 2 million couples tied the knot in 2009. Many of those proposing on Valentine's Day won't get married until next year or later, but the survey results suggest a lot of cold feet when it comes time to actually ask the question.
But for those who go ahead with their proposal plans, the trend of "engagementcations" continues, with 30 percent of consumers naming a weekend getaway or vacation as the best setting to pop the question, while a romantic proposal at home took second place (19 percent).
The True Cost of Bling
Dreaming of a star-worthy bling? Not so fast. Despite the publicity surrounding celebrities dropping millions on engagement rings, everyday consumers are more modest when it comes to the actual amount they intend to spend. Forty-eight percent of single consumers feel between $1,000 and $5,000 is appropriate amount for couples to spend on an engagement ring this year. Others feel the price range should be even lower, with 22 percent citing $1,000 to $1,999 as appropriate, and 21 percent citing less than $500. Five percent felt shelling out $10,000 or more for the ring was most suitable.
From First Dates to Marriage
When unmarried consumers were asked who pays for a date, 58 percent of unmarried men overwhelmingly identified themselves, while only 39 percent of women expect men to foot the bill. In fact, many women will break out their own wallets despite tradition: 39 percent believe whoever asked for the date should pay and 14 percent would split the bill.
How long into dating before finances are disclosed? Fifty percent report that they waited at least six months before discussing their finances. Among married couples, 20 percent waited until after saying 'I Do' and 26 percent broached the subject during their engagement.
The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 2000 adults, including the general U.S. population, as well as two sub-groups—the affluents and couples. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between January 18 and January 20, 2011.