3 ways COVID-19 is changing Valentine’s Day plans this year

Consumers still plan to celebrate, but love is different in the quarantine bubble
Katherine Cullen
Senior Director, Industry and Consumer Insights

As consumers in the United States bought heart-shaped treats and made Valentine’s Day plans last year, the coronavirus was just a blip on the horizon. Twelve months later, shoppers have become expert at adapting to the long shadow of a pandemic that upended everything from daily routines to special events and celebrations.

Given that environment, it comes as no surprise that consumers are changing how they spend on Valentine’s Day this year. According to NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ annual Valentine’s Day survey, consumers plan to spend an average $165 on Valentine’s Day gifts and celebrations — $32 less than they budgeted last year. Yet despite this drop, it is still the second highest Valentine’s Day in terms of expected spending and comes on the heels of a record-setting winter holiday season. Our research revealed three ways consumers are marking the occasion differently this year.

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With rising COVID-19 cases and continued restrictions on indoor dining across the country, many consumers are swapping a romantic evening out for an at-home meal or celebration. Just 24 percent say they will celebrate with an evening out this year, down from 34 percent last year and the lowest in the survey’s history.

Another 46 percent say they are actively avoiding in-person gatherings. This translates to $1.5 billion less in spending on an evening out this year. However, that does not mean Valentine’s Day is canceled. Two in five say they are still planning a special meal or celebration from the comfort of home. And while some may use this as an opportunity to show off the new cooking skills they picked up during the pandemic, others might be looking to local restaurants for meal kits or three-course dinners to re-create the fine-dining experience.



Love in the bubble

Over the past decade, Valentine’s Day has grown into a holiday that’s not just about romantic love, but also an opportunity to celebrate all the important relationships in our lives. This year put that trend on pause and consumers are keeping it close to home in more ways than one. Those between the ages of 25 and 44 are usually the most likely to purchase Valentine’s Day gifts for their children’s classes or for co-workers. But with many classes taking place virtually or in small groups, consumers are much less likely to be including teachers, classmates or co-workers in their Valentine’s Day plans.

One group that still made consumers’ bubbles? Pets. Just like last year, 27 percent of those celebrating Valentine’s Day are planning to buy gifts and other treats for their pets.



A gap year for dating

While overall participation in Valentine’s Day is on par with previous years, one group in particular might be deciding to sit the holiday out: Compared with last year, those between the ages of 18 and 24 are significantly less likely to celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not just that they are passing on a romantic night out. They are also less likely to be planning get-togethers with friends or treating themselves to something special — activities that, in a typical year, are popular even among younger, single consumers.



While fewer young consumers are celebrating Valentine’s Day, those who are seem committed to making the holiday even more special this year. Those aged 18-24 were the only age group to increase their planned spending on Valentine’s Day, from $109 to $184.

Nothing can mask love permanently, and we expect consumers will return to their typical Valentine’s Day traditions next year. You can find more Valentine’s Day data and insights in our Valentine’s Day Data Center.

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