George Sand, the iconic French author, once wrote: “There is only one happiness in life: to love and be loved.”
It’s no secret that retailers benefit from Valentine’s Day sales. Consumers want to feel “loved” whether it’s from a little bit of retail therapy or from their partner’s gifts.
As the Valentine’s Day period becomes even more commercialised than it already is, retailers are learning that the day is more than just flowers and chocolate. They’re adjusting to consumer behaviours by enticing them into buying a good deal.
Department stores like Debenhams, John Lewis and Selfridges are all guilty of using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to push consumers into spending more money.
However, Boux Avenue recently reported that since 2015, searches for the term “Valentine’s Day” went down by 55 per cent. Despite this, 53 per cent of Brits still spend a considerable amount of money on Valentine’s Day gifts for their partner.
The lingerie retailer recently capitalised on the rise of “Galentine’s Day”, a celebration of female friendship rather than romance, and released its “Galentine’s Day” novelty nightwear collection.
According to Boux Avenue’s research, only 3.5 per cent of consumers treat themselves to something special, so unveiling a nightwear range for women to celebrate friendship was one way to drive sales during the Valentine’s Day period.
“Successfully capitalising on sales events such as Valentine’s Day does not just happen on its own.”
“There’s a rising trend in Galentine’s and Singles Awareness Day, so any retailer capitalising on Valentine’s Day should be thinking about how best to capitalise on these days as well,” Wowcher head of marketing Alexis Harrison told the Retail Gazette.
Wowcher reported an 8.5 per cent increase in year-on-year promotions during the period of February 1 to February 10, arguing that Valentine’s Day is indeed a popular time of year in retail.
“We always see success around Valentine’s day, which is highlighted by the fact that many of the businesses who are running promotions this Valentine’s day, are businesses who worked with us last year,” Harrison said.
She added: “For deals tagged under the Valentine’s umbrella, 20,000 units have been purchased by customers from 1st to 10th February. It’s a day that people continue to celebrate, therefore, we look to Valentine’s as a peak trading period in the Q1 calendar.”
Meanwhile, it could be argued that retailers are fearing for their survival in the wake of recent collapses and the plethora of ongoing challenges plaguing the sector.
In the past 12 months, well-known retailers like HMV, Blue Inc, Maplin, Toys R Us and Poundworld all went into administration. Reduced footfall was one of the many factors for their collapse, but retailers are still scurrying to drive sales by releasing promotions during the Valentine’s Day period without considering the ever-changing consumer behaviours.
“Valentine’s Day promotions can help to increase footfall, even if that footfall is at a later date,” Harrison explained.
“The businesses we work with can take advantage of higher web traffic from customers shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts but set the offer redemption period to after Valentine’s Day, in order to leverage a busy time and offset quieter time.”
According to Adaptive Insights UK director Robert Douglas, around £650 million was spent on Valentine’s Day gifts last year.
“It is safe to say that it is a crucial day for many retailers when it comes to making sales,” he told Retail Gazette.
“However, successfully capitalising on sales events such as Valentine’s Day does not just happen on its own.
“It would be a mistake for these retailers to reserve showing customers some love only for that day.”
“It relies on strategic planning and forecasting, based on up-to-date and accurate numbers that can be used to measure the effect of any discount decisions.”
On the flip side, Simon Brennan, the vice president of Engage Hub’s Europe sales, believes retailers should be sending out promotions regardless of seasonal holidays. He also believes customer service is the main driver of sales.
“Retailers love taking advantage of these sorts of seasonal holidays to push selected deals and offers, but it would be a mistake for these retailers to reserve showing customers some love only for that day, or any other seasonal holiday for that matter,” Brennan told the Retail Gazette.
He added: “Retailers should always be looking to improve the experience offered to customers.
“There’s no doubt that genuinely good Valentine’s Day promotions will bring customers flocking, but a bad retail experience will result in a messy breakup.”
Meanwhile, online retail is continuing to grow with some retailers still attempting to grasp the importance of digital sales. Those that have are expecting Valentine’s Day promotions to boost their online sales.
“Eighty-two per cent of shoppers conduct ‘near me’ searches on their smartphones for products and services located near them, Valentine’s Day presents retailers with the perfect opportunity to capitalise on those last-minute lovers searching online for everything from jewellery and flowers to restaurants and bars,” Daniel Mathew, vice president of retail tech firm Uberall, told the Retail Gazette.
“It’s critical for retailers to prioritise their online presence, and make sure that when consumers are searching online, theirs is the business shoppers find when looking for that last-minute Valentine’s Day gift.”
This online strategy inevitably applies to online retailers, such as Personalised Gifts Shop, which told the Retail Gazette that they focused heavily on online campaigns, targeted email campaigns and social media adverts in the run up to Valentine’s Day.
As much as consumers deny being coerced by retailers into buying Valentine’s Day gifts, it can be argued that retailers are succeeding, especially if the promotions are time-constricted. After all, the “fomo” sentiment is a strong one.