For British retailers, 2019 was a difficult year as UK consumers shunned the high street and various well-known traders entered into administration. The three months to December saw retail sales decline 1% compared to the previous three-month period, bringing a disappointing end to a difficult year. In the New Year retailers have sought to empty their inventories via heavy discounting, leading to a 5.7% year-on-year increase in high street sales. However, those expecting Valentine’s day sales to deliver a much-needed boost to UK retailers should curb their enthusiasm with forecasters expecting Valentine’s Day related spending to grow by less than 1%, compared to 2019.
These tepid British figures are in stark contrast to those seen in the USA, where a 32% jump in spending is expected. As with Black Friday, British retail may have to start playing catch up.
American retailers have successfully transformed Valentine’s Day into an early-year sales event, with large discounts on many non-traditional ‘romantic gifts’, including sought-after gadgets. Amazon has previously held 24-hour flash sales to mark Valentine’s Day and is well placed to import American shopping habits to the UK.
Much of the rise in American Valentine’s Day spending is due to increased gift-giving to non-romantic partners. A National Retail Federation survey expects family, friends, classmates, co-workers and pets to receive 42% of today’s generosity, although significant others are still the biggest winners accounting for 52% of the holiday’s spend. Compared to 2010 data, significant others have lost ground, whilst co-workers and pets have more than doubled their share of the Valentine’s purse over the last decade.
Further promotion of non-romantic Valentine’s Day spending could allow British retailers to boost sales by targeting the 38% who currently don’t splash any cash to mark the occasion.Globally, celebrations of single life and non-romantic relationships are on the rise, and UK retailers have an opportunity to cater to this changing gifting trend. Opportunities include ‘Galentine’s Day’ and the Chinese ‘Singles’ Day’. These show the appetite for non-traditional celebrations of love, non-romantic gift giving and ‘self-gifting’.
In addition, retailers may be well advised to specifically target additional February sales events at their female customers. According to research published by price comparison site Finder, British women currently spend 59 pence for every £1 men splurge on Valentine’s Day. If women chose to spend as much as their male counterparts, this would represent a 26% increase in total Valentine’s Day related spending. With Finder currently forecasting a £1.45 billion spend on today’s festivities, an increase in female expenditure, to match men, would raise this total to £1.81 billion.
By embracing a wider variety of Valentine’s Day promotions, retailers could access a large under-served market of those who are looking to celebrate the love of the non-romantic kind, making the holiday more inclusive and helping to boost their own performance along the way.
 BDO High Street Sales Tracker
 National Retail Federation
Contact: Asher Berkowitz firstname.lastname@example.org 07824 348945