Valentine's Day is losing its allure with young adults

broken candy heart
© Kelly vanDellen/Shutterstock

Is Cupid's appeal fading as millennials find the holiday has become too commercialized?

Capitalism isn't subtle. For instance, if there's a holiday to capitalize on, capitalism will do it with such gusto that the poor holiday won't know what hit it. Take Valentine's Day.

Though the holiday dates back to ancient times, the oldest known valentine still around today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. By the 18th century, small tokens and hand-written notes were commonly exchanged between friends and lovers.

By the early 1900s, printed cards entered the scene – fast-forward to now and Americans will be spending $933 million on greeting cards alone! The country will be drowning in candy hearts and Cupid cut-outs, while ads everywhere will be imploring lovers to to spend money on their sweethearts.

Whatever happened to those (free! sweet!) hand-written notes? They have been replaced with $20.7 billion dollars' worth of merchandise, which is how much the National Retail Federation (NRF) expects will be spent on Valentine's Day this year. That's $3.9 billion on jewelry, $3.5 billion on an evening out, $2.1 billion on clothing, $1.9 billion on flowers, $1.8 billion on candy, $1.3 billion on gift cards, in addition to that $933 million on greeting cards.

But the big question here is this: Could it all be backfiring? Check out these numbers from the most recent survey from NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics:

• In 2009: 72 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 said they planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
• In 2019: 53 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 said they planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

For 35 to 54 year olds, the number from 2009 to 2019 dropped from 65 to 52 percent. And even the boomers are feeling a bit immune to Cupid's arrow.

In a flash poll conducted by NRF, the top reasons given by consumers for not wanting to celebrate Valentine’s Day were that they considered it over-commercialized, didn’t have anyone to celebrate with, or had simply lost interest in it.

Have we killed Valentine's Day for the kids??

Well, retailers may not have to be too concerned – because although there are fewer people celebrating, those who are buying gifts plan to spend more. Between 2009 and 2019, the average amount consumers planned to spend on Valentine’s Day gifts increased by $60.

And as longs as we have pets, retailers will likely stay in the (pink-tinged) black: Pet spending is expected to total $886 million, up $519 million since NRF first asked the question in 2008. So while more of America's young sweethearts may be skipping the day, rest assured that the nation's pets will be feeling the love.

Valentine's Day is losing its allure with young adults
Is Cupid's appeal fading as millennials find the holiday has become too commercialized?

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