How Consumers ‘Feel the Love’ on Valentine’s Day Across the Globe

2019-04-17T09:23:45-03:00February 14th, 2019|News|

Valentine’s Day is big business for brands and retailers. This year, U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on gifts for Valentine’s Day, an increase from last year’s U.S. total spending of $136.57, according to the National Retail Federation. Jewelry, flowers, candy and clothing are the top-performing categories for Valentine’s Day in the U.S. Consumers here don’t limit the gift-giving to their significant others: children, friends, parents and even co-workers get tokens of love on this day.

Duplicating this same level of success with Valentine’s Day gift-selling in other global markets will require knowledge, preparation and a clear understanding of how local traditions and customs differ from those of your domestic consumers. While many countries observe Valentine’s Day on February 14th, there are differing ways in which consumers celebrate. Not every country gives out Valentines to toddlers and grandparents; and some countries have traditions that are far from the Western origins of St. Valentine.

Localizing global gift-selling for the world’s biggest celebration of love

For cross border e-commerce retailers, it will be essential to acknowledge those differences and demonstrate a local presence, as opposed to presenting a carbon copy of your domestic strategy. That means offering the right product mix at the right price, and giving your international customers the appropriate mix of payment and shipping options to ensure their goods arrive in time for the big day.

Here’s a quick look at how this international day of love is observed in some of the top global markets.

    • China: In this market, e-commerce retailers have two chances to sell gifts. Chinese consumers celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th, the same as many Western countries, but they also observe it in the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar. On this culture-specific holiday, known as Qi Xi, Chinese consumers remember the story of two star-crossed lovers who were only allowed to see each other one day out of the year. This roughly falls in mid-to-late August on the Gregorian calendar, but it varies each year. Gifts for Qi Xi include fruits and specialty foods. Gift items for February 14th are more in line with Western shoppers: flowers, chocolates, and jewelry for women; wallets, accessories and self-care items for men. It’s considered a bad omen to buy umbrellas or shoes on this day.
    • United Kingdom: Valentine’s Day began as more of a religious holiday in the U.K., today, it’s a more secular holiday, much like the U.S. Sweets are the top choice for Valentine’s gifts, from cakes to cookies to chocolates. Inexpensive items such as cards and soft toys are also popular choices.
    • Japan: Much like the U.S., gift-giving for Valentine’s Day in Japan is open to everyone – even those without a significant other. However, women in Japan are responsible for the majority of the gift-giving. In several Asian countries, this is the standard for Valentine’s Day; men have their chance to return the favor on White Day, which is March 14th. For Valentine’s Day in Japan, chocolates are the most popular gift.
    • Germany: Unlike the U.S., Valentine’s Day in this market is strictly for adults. Consumers here aren’t looking for candy hearts; instead, the symbol for this day is the pig, which signifies good luck in German culture. And instead of chocolate, the traditional “sweets” for Valentine’s Day in Germany are ginger cookies with romantic messages on them.
    • France: This country and its largest city, Paris, the “city of love,” take the romance of Valentine’s Day – “La Saint Valentin” – very seriously. In France, this isn’t a holiday for celebrating love of children, parents or friends; it’s all about the romantic partner. In fact, sending a card to a friend or acquaintance on Valentine’s Day in France can convey the wrong impression. Popular gift choices are greeting cards, fresh flowers and sweets.
    • South Korea: Like other markets in Asia, it’s customary for South Korean women to do the gift-giving on this holiday. The most popular gift choice is chocolate, which can range from inexpensive to upscale. Women in South Korea shower chocolates on their significant other, as well as the other men in their lives, such as their fathers or co-workers. Men will then purchase gifts for women on White Day, March 14th; and single South Koreans have their own day on April 14th, known as Black Day.

Clearly, retailers selling Valentine’s Day goods into multiple markets can experience variation in selection and price from country to country. It’s important to note that an item that sold well in your domestic market may not translate to other regions for a number of reasons.

To keep up to date on global gift-selling holidays, be sure to download our Gift Sellers Guide to Global Holidays.

Written by
Juliana Pereira is Vice President, Marketing at Flow Commerce. With 15 years experience in marketing and ecommerce, Juliana joined the Flow team after serving as Vice President of Marketing at Smartling. Previously Juliana worked across a variety of verticals and industries, from non-profits and publishing to tech and fashion, including management positions and key contributing roles at Ralph Lauren, The Met Store online (at The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Ziff Davis, and eMusic.