Young love: 3 ways millennials and Gen Z are celebrating Valentine’s Day this year

VP, Industry and Consumer Insights
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Get more insights and data on Gen Z and Millennial shopping habits in NRF’s Consumer View.

Whether buying gifts for a loved one, getting together with friends or planning some “me time,” young consumers are gearing up for Valentine’s Day, helping drive the more than $19 billion that will be spent this year. And while candy hearts and bouquets remain high on shoppers’ gift lists, Millennials and Gen Zers are also looking at new ways to commemorate the holiday. To help retailers and brands understand how to connect with these celebrants, the NRF research team analyzed data from our partner Prosper Insights & Analytics and identified three trends influencing how young consumers plan to shop and celebrate on February 14. 

Younger consumers are doting pet parents

Valentine’s Day is a time to show appreciation for loved ones — and for many younger consumers, that’s furry, feathered and four-legged friends. According to a study by the American Pet Products Association, Millennials now account for more than a third of all pet owners in the United States, more than any other generation. For these consumers, holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day are a chance to splurge on the non-human members of their families. This year, a quarter of those under the age of 35 plan to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets; they will also outspend older shoppers. To cater to these doting pet parents, retailers like PetSmart feature Valentine’s Day sections on their websites with products like “I woof you” pillows and heart-shaped treats, while pet subscription service BarkBox is showcasing a special “Palentine’s Day” collection. Other retailers like Amazon are also getting involved, with dedicated Valentine’s Day gift guides for both pets and their owners.


Sweets are for sharing

Younger consumers may have helped drive recent health and wellness trends (avocado toast, anyone?) but the data shows they still have a sweet tooth. Among celebrants aged 18 to 24, 69 percent plan to give candy this Valentine’s Day, compared with 55 percent of celebrants overall. Similarly, among those 25 to 34 years old, 62 percent plan to gift sweets. Of course, it helps if sweets look as good as they taste for Millennial and Gen Zers, and brands are introducing new launches perfect for sharing on social media. Target partnered with Skittles on an exclusive Valentine’s Day “Love Mix” and Nestlé is introducing a new pink Kit Kat bar made of ruby chocolate. Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme are both introducing special Valentine’s Day collections with heart-shaped doughnuts and pink and red sprinkles.

A post shared by Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (@krispykreme) on Jan 29, 2018 at 3:29pm PST


“Me time” is the new date night

Even if they aren’t gifting chocolate or passing out “Will U Be Mine?” cards, many younger consumers still plan on participating in Valentine’s Day. For 18-24 year olds who said they would not be celebrating Valentine’s Day, half still planned to indulge in some self-care, treat themselves to a gift or go out with friends. Publications like Racked and Huffington Post cater to these shoppers with self-gifting guides and recommendations for at-home spa days or treats.  While most retailers still focus on those purchasing Valentine’s Day gifts for others, a few brands have made their Valentine’s Day collections more inclusive: Lush Cosmetics and Birchbox both note that in addition to serving as the perfect gift, their Valentine’s Day collection can be used to treat oneself or to indulge in some “me time.”

A post shared by Lush Cosmetics North America (@lushcosmetics) on Feb 6, 2018 at 4:33pm PST

With more than three-quarters of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 planning to participate in Valentine’s Day this year — either by celebrating with others or treating themselves — there are numerous opportunities for brands and retailers to engage their younger customers.

For more insights on Gen Z and Millennial shopping habits and attitudes, visit NRF’s Consumer View.