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How Valentine’s Day Impacts Consumer Behavior

Two years ago, Valentine’s Day marked the last major American Holiday before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the way we celebrate the biggest days of the year. Mere weeks after millions of Americans were out enjoying their usual romantic dinner of February 14th, restaurants around the country were shutting down and Americans were sheltering in place.

According to the National Retail Federation, Valentine’s Day 2021 saw big drops in the percentage of Americans planning on going out, and/or planning on buying a gift for the holiday. Although many did report they were planning on a nice romantic evening in. Nearly 2 years after the start of the pandemic, with Valentine’s Day 2022 approaching, we wanted to dig into our data to learn more about how the pandemic might have impacted online demand for certain go-to gifts. Did fewer people going out result in more people shopping for online gifts? If so, which types got the biggest bump? And how are things looking as we head into 2022? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and more.

Which types of Valentine’s Day gifts experienced the most online demand in 2021?

When it’s time to shop for your loved one on Valentine’s Day, there’s obviously countless types of gifts of every size, shape, and price point. But to keep things simple for this analysis, we decided to analyze some common search terms when it comes to online shopping for Valentine’s Day. Here’s how demand for those terms stacked up during the week before Valentine’s Day last year:

There’s nobody who doesn’t like chocolate and candy come Valentine’s Day, so it’s no surprise that the two terms were the top two during the week before Valentine’s Day last year. The rest of the top five—rose, candles, and flower–all saw similar levels of demand—although if you combine “flowers” and “flower” together, they’d see enough demand to edge out chocolate for the top overall term on the list. Of course, this view shows us which items see the most overall demand, but it’s perhaps just as important to know which ones get the biggest Valentine’s Day bounce. So, we next compared demand for each category during the week before Valentine’s Day to the average weekly demand throughout the entire year:

Here we see that it’s Teddy Bears that actually receive the biggest Valentine’s Day boost, with demand increasing by a whopping 151% during the week before the holiday. Lingerie and chocolate also got huge boosts, seeing demand more than double compared to the typical week during the rest of the year. As you can see, every single item in our analysis gets at least a minor bump during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, strengthening the notion that the holiday drives big business even online. To underscore just how big Valentine’s Day is for these types of items, here’s a look at weekly demand for all the items in our analysis combined:

While these types of items are also popular during Mother’s Day and the Holidays, there’s no bigger week of the year for them than Valentine’s Day. Now let’s take the same view for some of the individual items in our analysis.

There’s simply no bigger week of the year for chocolates than Valentine’s Day. Easter and Mother’s Day certainly move the needle, and most of the month of December saw people buying plenty of chocolate, but they all pale in comparison to the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. But, as we saw in the list above, the holiday is even bigger for Teddy Bears:

Demand starts to spike sharply in mid-January, reaching near double the weekly average during the week of Jan 31-Feb 6, and then peaking at 151% during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. The rest of the year sees almost no interest in Teddy Bears, with only the holidays bringing weekly demand above the annual average.

It’s a similar story for lingerie, which saw a similar steep ramp up in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, only to plummet immediately after. After mid-March, only the week before Halloween saw demand rise above the annual average. Finally, here’s a combined look at the next three items that received the largest Valentine’s Day boost:

Roses got their biggest bump of the year during the week before Valentine’s Day, edging out Mother’s Day. Candy, meanwhile, also got its biggest single-week increase during Valentine’s Day, although October and December’s sustained increases make those Holidays a much larger driver of candy sales overall. As for flowers, Valentine’s Day was good for the second largest week of the year, but Mother’s Day reigns supreme, tripling the boost in demand we saw over Valentine’s Day.

How has COVID-19 impacted online demand for Valentine’s Day gifts?

It’s clear that a lot of people went online to buy gifts for Valentine’s Day last year, but how did it compare to previous years? Did COVID-19 mean more people turned to online shopping to make the holiday more romantic? And if so, did some categories benefit more than others? To find out we started by comparing demand during the week before Valentine’s Day in 2021 to that in 2020.

Demand for slippers was up 61% year-over-year in 2021, suggesting that the pandemic perhaps saw a record number of people looking to share comfy at-home gifts this year, especially when compared to last year’s pre-pandemic Valentine’s Day. Candles saw demand up by 34% compared to 2020, perhaps due to the increase in people deciding to spend the night making a homemade candlelit dinner as opposed to going out to a fancy restaurant.

Interestingly, every item in our analysis saw demand rise during the week before Valentine’s Day in 2021 when compared to 2020 except for roses, which saw basically no year-over-year change. To better understand how COVID-19 may have impacted demand on each of these items, let’s take an even closer look at a few.

A closer look at slippers reveals that Valentine’s Day doesn’t really appear to move the needle for this item in either year. However, it’s clear that COVID-19 did impact online demand for a new pair of slippers. Demand rose in the weeks following the initial lockdowns in March of 2020 as millions of Americans adjusted to a new work-from-home schedule where wearing slippers to a meeting became the new normal.

Once again, online demand for chocolate is clearly impacted by Valentine’s Day, both in 2020 and in 2021. Interestingly 2021 saw smaller increases in demand during Easter and Christmas compared to 2020, but there’s little doubt that the pandemic had more people turn to online shopping for all their chocolate needs on Valentine’s Day last year.

Like with slippers, the year-over-year increase in demand for candles seems to be more of a reflection of people purely buying more candles since the pandemic began. Although there was a slight bump in demand during the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day in 2021, it would seem that there were enough couples who decided to opt for an at-home candlelit dinner in the face of restricted in-person dining to move the needle at least a little bit.

Online demand for lingerie appears to have been heavily impacted by COVID-19. Year-over-year demand was up big in January 2021, and got even bigger as Valentine’s Day approached. This particular increase may have been more a result of a general shift to online shopping over in-person shopping during the pandemic as opposed to people being extra eager to buy lingerie last Valentine’s Day, but it’s difficult to say for certain.

A lesson for brands

After a closer look at each category, it’s clear that the pandemic has altered the way Americans shop online for Valentine’s Day. As we approach Valentine’s Day 2022, it’s difficult to say which of these trends will continue, and which might look entirely different. Will more shoppers than ever be heading online to buy chocolates and roses? Are people eager to buy some new lingerie and book reservations for a fancy night out, or this be the year we see a huge surge in demand for candles and another cozy evening in? Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy. To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right. And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, get a consultation today.