The Washington Post

Fewer Americans are celebrating Valentine’s Day. But don’t blame the economy.

Today’s Valentine’s Day. Did you even notice? If you didn’t, you’re not alone.

The share of people who say they’re celebrating the-day-everything-turns-pink is the lowest it’s been in seven years, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation, a trade group.

Only 54 percent of adults are planning to mark the occasion this year, which is much lower than the average of 60 percent over the last seven years. Before you blame the economy, consider this: In 2009, barely a year into the financial crisis, 63 percent of Americans were all about celebrating love. And they spent almost $15 billion proving it. So what’s behind the sudden aversion to Valentine’s Day? Analysts aren’t sure, but here are a few guesses:

1. Okay, at least part of it can be blamed on the economy. 

(Victor J. Blue/ Bloomberg)

Consumer spending has been weak in 2014, so people just aren’t shopping as much. And Valentine’s Day is one of retail’s biggest days of the year.

Americans are sticking to their budgets and looking out for deals, said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at Prosper Insights & Analytics, the research firm that conducted the survey. That behavior is a hangover from the holiday season, when retailers offered shoppers aggressive discounts.

Those who say they’ll spend money on loved ones aren’t planning to splurge, either. On average, gift-givers will spend about $134, which is slightly higher than last year’s $131. But that number is heavily skewed.

Adults who make more than $50,000 a year will spend roughly $152 on gifts, the survey found. People who earn less than that will spend about $100.

“It’s quite a big difference,” Goodfellow said.

2. There’s an explosion of single people in 2014.  

(Lucian Perkins/For The Washington Post)

That’s not true, of course. But the nature of American relationships has changed a lot over the last decade. The marriage rate has declined, millennials are delaying commitment in favor of education or employment, and more people are living alone.

None of that means people don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, of course. In fact, the majority of those who plan to celebrate fall into the 25-34 age group, according to the NRF survey. The second-highest is the 18-24 age group.

But for many Americans, it’s unlikely to be a high priority.

3. It’s the weather.

Paul J. Richards (/AFP/Getty Images)

Most trends are being blamed on the weather this season, so why not add another? People aren’t celebrating Valentine’s Day simply because it’s too cold to go out for a nice dinner or make a trip to the store. Online purchases are an option, but that requires a bit of planning ahead. As Goodfellow jokes, that doesn’t usually happen because “this is a very male-driven holiday.”

Then there’s the simplest reason: People just don’t care about Valentine’s Day. After all, every day should be about celebrating your loved ones and all that jazz. But of course, that’s not exactly what the retail industry wants to hear.

Amrita Jayakumar covers national startups, small business issues and entrepreneurship.



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