The National Retail Federation (NRF) notes that Americans spent more than $27 billion on Valentine’s Day in 2020. Remember that Valentine’s Day, just a few weeks pre-pandemic?  Hopefully we’re on our way towards a return to the Before Times, and can promote Valentine’s Day the way we would have before COVID hit.

As far back as the 18th century, Valentine’s Day was a time when friends and lovers would exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. Printed Valentines came into the picture around 1900 – and now over 150 million are purchased every year. The tradition of small tokens has evolved into gifts of flowers (especially red roses), candy (especially chocolate) and jewelry.

There is good business to be done from Valentine’s Day even if you don’t carry these three categories. According to the NRF, 27% of US shoppers in 2020 said they would buy a present for their pet. Others buy toys and heart-shaped items for their children and grandchildren. The rise of Galentine’s Day reflects the fact that that many women enjoy buying gifts for friends instead of the traditional lovers or spouses.

Here are a few ideas for getting customers excited about Valentine’s Day:

  1. Create a Valentine-themed display by grouping together items that are red/pink, or feature a heart or floral motif. Take a look around your shop to see what you already have on hand that might help create some visual impact. Adding a few things ordered specifically for Valentine’s Day can help tie the display together.
  2. Offer at least a small selection of Valentine’s Day cards, including designs appropriate for friends to send to friends, grandmothers to little ones, and pet owners to their cats and dogs. (A note to the card industry – there really aren’t enough cards in these categories on the market.)
  3. Promote your store’s gift cards by offering a free Valentine with any valued at $50 or more. You could also provide a fancy box or other packaging for your gift cards, adding a big red bow, or silk rose.
  4. Think of something to offer as a gift for your customers. We’ve traditionally given away free mylar heart balloons, but have discontinued that due to environmental concerns. This year we’ve found some large heart-themed shopping bags at $1.00 each, and will offer them for free to the first 100 shoppers the weekend before Valentine’s Day. The $100 cost is a relatively small investment, and we hope that the bags – like the balloons – will generate some buzz when they’re seen on the street.
  5. Include suggestions in your social media for non-traditional gift giving – friends, neighbors, pets, etc. It’s a great opportunity to say I appreciate you or I miss you, as well as I love you.

Look around online for more Valentine’s Day promotions that might work for your store. The Vend blog has twenty that are worth considering, and I’m sure you’ll find others.

Happy retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder