With the past year tainted by curtailments and the current lockdown rules meaning that the public must remain at home in England until at least March, many upcoming annual gifting events, such as Valentine’s Day are set to be much different.
Since the start of lockdown, retail as an industry, particularly among those that have embraced digitisation, has held steady during the worst of the pandemic. Valentine’s Day itself has evolved in its own way to be much more inclusive and innovative.
We’ve seen the emergence of counter celebrations such as Galentine’s Day where female friendship is celebrated the day before Valentine’s. An NRF survey found that spending on friends is expected to reach $1.6bn this year in the US.
Another market that has evolved over the years is pet gifting and celebrating the romantic day with furry friends. From partners to pals either stuck with each other or apart, how will retailers change their strategy this year to meet the demand of lovesick consumers?
How consumers have embraced Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is no longer just for significant others and has progressed to showing appreciation for friends, family, pets and even co-workers.
Brits spent £1.45 billion last year and around £35 per person, up 0.6% on 2019 spending. According to a study by SEJ, not only are men the bigger spenders when it comes to Valentine’s Day, but they also do the most gift-giving as 62% of men planned to buy a gift for a loved one in 2020, versus only 45% of women.
The same survey found that women who plan to buy a gift for their loved one start their search early February, whereas men start their search the day before Valentine’s.
In 2020, Snickers (Mars Chocolate, BOSCO Index: 742) played on those last-minute and forgetful partners, using their “you're not you when you're hungry” catchphrase. This was used for both digital and OOH advertising. The physical billboard they created also featured peel off notes that you could give to your loved one.
The concept of pop-up stores has grown to become a billion-pound industry and are a great way to create an interactive experience that drives brand awareness, engagement and enables the brand to get face-to-face with customers.
Nut butter business Pip and Nut (BOSCO™ Index: 744) are a fast-growing start up and took their brand to the streets for Valentine’s Day 2020. They opened the ‘Love Lab’ where customers could create their own custom blends of nut butter with a personalised label. As well as getting up close and personal with customers, Pip and Nut donated one jar of nut butter to a local food bank for every jar they created during the campaign.
Cupid’s bow doesn’t always aim for us humans, as buying gifts and even cards for pets has become customary on Valentine’s. In the US, people expected to spend $1.7 billion on their furry Valentines in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation, up 17% from what these animal lovers were spending back in 2010. Here in the UK, research conducted by Pets at Home (BOSCO Index: 705) found that 58.6% of pet owners admit to spending between £11 and £100 on their pet last Valentine's Day.
Loved-up in lockdown 2021
This year, around 40 million Brits (76%) are planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day. This is a significant drop from last year, where 41.4 million Brits embraced the day dedicated to love. Valentine’s spending is expected to drop to £926 million this year, where the average spend will now be around £23 per person, potentially due to pandemic related financial difficulties.
Of those who are celebrating, 3 in 4 people feel that this year is important to celebrate given the ongoing restrictions and national lockdown. As the nation’s romantic options are undoubtedly limited this year, it’s no surprise to discover that 30% of couples that don’t live together are planning to spend time together indoors.
Prior to the lockdown, 63% of those who celebrate Valentine’s Day said they would rather stay in and cook at home. Meal kits and ‘dine at home’ boxes have boomed in the UK and the search query ‘meal kit delivery’ has increased by 300% over the last 12 months (Google Trends).
Most supermarkets have previously offered a Valentine’s Day meal for two, but with the current lockdown restrictions and mounting pressure on public finances, the market is set to be much more saturated.
Discount supermarket Aldi (BOSCO Index: 669) have recently introduced a Valentine’s ‘budget-friendly’ meal for two which rivals larger supermarkets such as M&S (BOSCO Index: 617) and Tesco (BOSCO Index: 732). These larger stores have previously dominated the ‘Valentine’s dine at home’ but in order to compete, Tesco have since reduced the price of their meal by 25%.
During the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in direct-to-consumer, and food and drink giants such as Kraft Heinz (BOSCO Index: 718) rolled out the Heinz to Home service enabling consumers to purchase product ‘bundles’ which are delivered to their home. Heinz are continuing to grow this offering and are targeting consumers for Valentine’s Day by running a competition on their Instagram page to win personalised ‘Marry Me’ cans of their Alphabetti.
As seen last year’s Valentine’s Day, and even more so after being separated from loved ones for almost a year, personalisation is now a big trend. The UK personalised gift market is expected to reach £1 billion in 2021. Online greetings card company Moonpig (BOSCO Index: 670) stated that they delivered over 50 million personalised cards, gifts and flower bouquets for their 12 million customers in 2020.
Inspired by the complexity of modern relationships, online florist Bloom & Wild (BOSCO Index: 674) have decided against selling red rose bouquets this year. They expressed that Valentine’s Day ‘shouldn’t be about ticking a box with a generic dozen’ and have instead introduced a unique range of flowers to suit every relationship and make the gift much more personalised for the consumer.
In Bloom & Wild’s latest customer survey, 58% said that red roses are cliche, 70% of women would prefer something other than red for Valentine's Day and 79 per cent would prefer a thoughtful gift over traditional red roses.
As many consumers shift away from these traditional gifts, both Nike (BOSCO Index: 671) and Adidas (BOSCO Index: 666) have released collaboration ranges of their popular trainers specifically for Valentine’s Day 2021. Moving away from couple-based targeting, Nike have designed these new trainers with both couples and those looking to treat themselves in mind. The Air Max 90’s come with a secret message on the tongue and ‘ME+AM90=TRUE LOVE’ as a peel back message on the heel.
Among trainers and flower deliveries, self-care is set to be a big trend for this year’s Valentine’s Day as well as the rest of 2021. The search queries ‘self-care gifts’ and ‘self-care hamper’ have increased by 400% over the last 12 months (Google Trends).
The demand for loungewear and pyjamas surged during the lockdown and many retailers couldn’t keep up with stock. As we remain at home for Valentine’s Day, this home comforts market is guaranteed for continued growth. The search term ‘his and hers pyjamas’ is already up by 180%.
This year, many retailers may give the gift of discounts to their customers for being loyal during the pandemic or even run competitions. 70% of consumers said that they will continue shopping with and supporting retailers they relied on during this difficult time.
At the start of February, Chocolate brand Ferrero launched a Valentine’s Day competition exclusively for independent retailers to help them “engage with their local shoppers during a challenging start to the year”. Three retailers will win luxury Ferrero Rocher rose bouquets to gift to shoppers or those in their community who they feel deserve a reward.
45% of UK adults have received more parcel deliveries during coronavirus lockdown than before and we have become much more demanding, expectant of one-click ordering and next-day delivery. A significant proportion of retailers are failing to deliver on consumer expectations. When it comes to online gifting, IMRG have found that only 28% of consumers would consider the online gifting experience they’ve had in the last six months impressive. Retailers must consider the end-to-end gifting experience and invest in it to succeed this Valentine’s Day.
From analysing how retailers have reacted during the pandemic, it’s clear to see that a more personalised customer experience is a key trend for not just Valentine’s Day but 2021 overall. As we’ve all developed to become much more sophisticated online, we as consumers expect a better customer experience, from the purchasing decision to delivery. It’s now detrimental if retailers don’t address this.
Valentine’s Day has become much more inclusive and progressive, retailers need to do the same to appeal to a wide-ranging audience. As we remain at home this year, this could be the perfect opportunity to reward customer loyalty and make people feel special whether they are spending it with their loved ones or not.
One thing is for certain, this year will be like a box of chocolates - we’re not sure what we’re going to get.
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