Valentine’s Day Gifts: How to Cash in on the First Retail Holiday of the Year

Valentine’s Day Gifts: How to Cash in on the First Retail Holiday of the Year

Valentine's Day gifts | Shopify Retail blogI recently went grocery shopping at my local Alfalfa’s Market, a locally owned natural food store. With the day of love almost here, aisles and product displays were adorned with themed decor to promote an assortment of Valentine’s Day gifts.

Laminated hearts were stuck on shelves and racks throughout the store: “OLIVE YOU” said the one at the fresh olives station, and a heart reading “SOMETHING SWEET” was placed next to all the chocolates.

Alfalfa’s Market, Valentine's Day gifts | Shopify Retail blog

Image: Alexandra Sheehan

It was a small effort by Alfalfa’s to appeal to shoppers for the first consumer holiday of the year, yet it showed they’re in tune with their customer. Almost half of consumers spend the holiday at home, and nearly one-third of Americans cooked a meal at home for Valentine’s Day, according to one study. Alfalfa’s was giving fun, visual cues as to which products to buy to make a romantic at-home meal.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts American consumers alone will spend a “near recording-breaking” $19.6 billion this year on Valentine’s Day. There are many creative ways your retail business can cash in on the rush. Below, read about how to get in on the action.

Understand What Your Customers Want

There’s a ton of data and insights that can help retailers better understand who’s buying what for Valentine’s Day:

  • Male consumers will spend an estimated $63, while females will spend $46. Keep this in mind when pricing your Valentine’s Day products — you can go a little higher for gifts more men will buy, and slightly lower for gifts purchased by females. (Offers.com)
  • Couples who are engaged spend $3 more than those who are dating or married. Bear in mind, though, that 91% of couples will treat their significant others and/or spouses to something for the holiday. (Offers.com and NRF)
  • Consumers aren’t just shopping for romantic Valentine’s Day gifts. More than half plan to gift other family members, and 21% will be shopping for their pets too. (NRF)
  • Most Valentine’s Day shoppers are procrastinators: 32% of purchases are made the week of the holiday, and just 16% as far in advance as the first two weeks of January. This is helpful for the timing of your messaging and promotions. (Offers.com)
  • More consumers spend the holiday at home than at a restaurant or a night out — focus on products that will enhance that romantic at-home experience and clearly communicate that to your customers. (Offers.com)
  • Although cliche, roses, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a box of chocolates remain the most popular products for Valentine’s Day gifts. Consider a related promotion, such as throwing in a free box of chocolates for every purchase over $100. (Offers.com and NRF)

When looking at the data, consider which consumer groups are target audiences of your own. In some cases, the giftee is part of your target audience, and their spouse is a temporary target during this time of year.

Creative Ways for Retailers to Cash in on Valentine’s Day Gifts

It’s a good idea to refer back to your target customers for this particular Valentine’s Day when determining which tactics make the most sense for your retail biz.

But to get you started with some tactics that’ll get you ready for the holiday, here are some ideas:

Create Valentine’s Day Gift Guides

Gift-giving can be tough, especially with so many milestones throughout the year. Creating themed gift guides reduces the stress of the holiday for your customers. Gift guides could be targeted towards lifestyle — for example, the techie, the adventurer, the athlete, the bookworm, etc. — or play to the relationship type — Valentine’s Day gifts for her, him, teachers, dogs, etc.

Walmart took this approach on their website:

Walmart Valentine's Day gift guide | Shopify Retail blogRather than grouping products together in-store and calling it a day, supplement that effort with marketing content for your email list, social media followers, or website that features these Valentine’s Day gift ideas. Consider throwing in some potential brand partners or local restaurants to further your reach — maybe they’ll promote your content in reciprocation for the promotion.

Whole Foods put together a Valentine’s Day menu on their website for last year’s Valentine’s Day. This created shopping lists for consumers to purchase Whole Foods products, and also featured influential chefs who provided credibility and shareability.

Keep It Simple

Promotions can be simple and effective. For Valentine’s Day, there are straightforward approaches, such as two-for-one or simple discounts.

Ticketmaster is a brand that has done this repeatedly over the years. Especially because gifting tickets is an experiential gift, it offers the opportunity for gift givers to treat themselves and share the experience.

High Street Wine Co. is preparing two special wine flights for the holiday, offering discounts to patrons who visit the establishment in pairs.

Create Experiences

Almost half (41%) of 25–34-year-old consumers seek Valentine’s Day gifts of experience rather than tangible items, such as jewelry or chocolate.

That gives retailers the opportunity to help consumers create these experiences for their loved ones. And, one bonus over online-only brands, is that retailers have the physical space in which to create those experiences.

Scented Studio Valentine's Day gifts | Shopify Retail blogColorado’s Scented Studio is a brick-and-mortar perfume store that also sells products online. This year, they’re creating the Valentine’s Day Scented Journey Workshop. Couples will blend perfume, drink Champagne, and enjoy hors d'oeuvres and sweets — an all-around romantic experience that seamlessly incorporates their core product.

Share the Love

A common theme for Valentine’s Day is about sharing the love. Retailers can encourage customers to share the love — and your brand. Consider implementing a limited-time customer referral program that “gifts” friends steep discounts.

You could also allow customers to share the love without tying it to your products. Start a user-generated content campaign to get your audience to share their love stories. Revlon partnered up with Google for their Valentine’s Day GIF(t) promotion to do exactly that. Users could create e-cards to share messages of love with their friends and family.

Brand partnerships are another way to “share the love” — with their audience and yours. Online dating site Match.com and Starbucks were an unlikely duo a couple of years ago. Starbucks hosted the “World’s Largest Starbucks Date” targeted towards singles during the holiday. It was a clever way to not only give back to their customers but also to drive more foot traffic to their brick-and-mortar locations.

Your brand could also share the love: Give customers a free gift, send them a gift card that they must activate in-store, or a simple Valentine’s Day e-card to let them know you appreciate their loyalty.

Offer Conveniences

Remember how most Valentine’s Day shoppers are procrastinators? Retailers have an opportunity to alleviate the pain points of challenges that many last-minute shoppers face. Here are a just a few ideas:

  • Free Valentine’s Day card with purchase
  • In-store gift-wrapping services
  • Pre-packaged gift baskets that don’t even need to be wrapped
  • Fresh flowers for sale (or complimentary with purchase)
  • Free delivery

Get Creative With Visual Merchandising

As my opening example illustrates, Valentine’s Day-inspired visual merchandising doesn’t have to complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as an arts and craft project meant for children. Hanna Andersson, a children’s clothing brand, went the DIY route with colored paper and markers.

Find your pink and red merchandise and get creative with the displays. Round out the theme with other stereotypical Valentine’s Day products that you have in stock: chocolate, flowers, strawberries, wine, jewelry, etc.

Get inspired by these ten unique visual merchandising ideas >

Tap Into Emotional Selling

Valentine’s Day is an emotional holiday. Many jewelry brands have shaped their Valentine’s Day campaigns around the theme of love. The Proposal earned Cartier a lot of attention, chronicling the romantic story of a fictitious couple who meet at a party and eventually get engaged.

Cartier’s use of storytelling gives consumers something to relate to, and that makes it easy for them to envision themselves in that same moment. Again, the product is integrated seamlessly into the moments during the video.

Emotional persuasion is more than just appealing to the romance of Valentine’s Day. It’s a technique that retailers can use year-round to tap into consumers’ emotions and drive sales.

Remember the Singles and “Galentine’s”

NRF research has also found that 30% of single people don’t celebrate with a significant other, but instead, they give a nod to Valentine’s Day in some other way. This is most common for consumers 18-24 years old, many of whom are treating themselves for the holiday.

For these consumers, promoting self-care will be quick wins for retailers. Beyond the traditional chocolates and flowers, look at things that are considered special treats. Perhaps it’s an expensive handbag or pair of shoes or a new line of bubble bath. Valentine’s Day provides the perfect excuse to splurge on yourself.

It’s also worth noting that Valentine’s Day is an extremely polarizing holiday — most people either hate it or love it. While you could go the self-love route, you can also take the anti-Valentine’s Day approach.

Give Back

The spirit of Valentine’s Day can extend beyond interpersonal relationships. Brands can also get behind philanthropic causes to share the love further. Plus, it’s a great move considering approximately 90% of global consumers will view your brand more positively, have more trust in your brand, and be more loyal to your brand.

If you can, tie the cause into the holiday. Heart health is a direct connection, and many brands are already using February to contribute to the cause. The American Heart Association has a landing page dedicated to their list of retail partners, and there are many other organizations — both national and local — that can make sense for your business.

Moving Forward With Your Own Valentine’s Day Gifts

Capitalizing on the consumer rush to buy Valentine’s Day gifts requires just a little bit of thought to make a difference. Something as simple as handmade decor can render effective. Remember what the holiday is about, how your customers celebrate, and how your brand/products fit into that bigger picture.

Which Valentine’s Day tactics have worked for you in the past? What are you going to try this year?

Photo of Alexandra Sheehan

About the Author

Alexandra Sheehan is a freelance writer/editor and content specialist. She’s worked with retailers ranging from Fortune 100 companies to Etsy shop owners, and is always looking for innovative ways to help her clients.

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