LIFESTYLE

Last-minute love: Many Americans procrastinate when it comes to Valentine’s gifts

Feb 13, 2024, 4:23 PM

In a classic “Saturday Night Live” sketch, a young man hands his girlfriend a Valentine’s Day gift: a bear dressed in a bee costume that he picked up at the drugstore.

“When did you get this?” she asks with a strained smile.

“One minute ago,” he replies.

It has more than a ring of truth. For a day meant to celebrate romance and the depths of feeling we have for loved ones, a surprising among of Valentine’s shopping is done at the last minute.

In each of the past two years, nearly half of U.S. spending on Valentine’s Day flowers, candy and cards occurred between Feb. 11 and Feb. 14, according to Numerator, a market research company. But sales do not peak until Valentine’s Day itself.

Walmart — which sells nearly 40 million red roses for the holiday — says around 75% of its Valentine’s Day sales happen on Feb. 13 and 14. Those two days account for 80% of Kroger’s sales during Valentine’s week.

“Although stores begin pushing their Valentine’s Day inventory weeks before the holiday itself, most consumers save their shopping for the last minute,” said Amanda Schoenbauer, an analyst with Numerator.

Americans do spend a lot on their valentines. This year, they’re expected to shell out a collective $25.8 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Candy is the most popular gift; nearly 60% of Valentine’s shoppers planning to buy some. Greeting cards are second.

Some of that spending takes place well before the holiday. Target says consumers start snapping up Valentine’s home décor soon after Christmas ends. Valentine’s-themed potted plants were also popular this year, Target said, and many were bought early, rather than closer to the holiday as is usually the case with cut flowers.

Yet procrastination seems to be part of the holiday tradition, according to data from Walgreens, which sold 44% of its Valentine’s candy and 56% of its Valentine’s cards on Feb. 13 and 14.

Delivery companies help some consumers shave it even closer. Uber Eats says its flower orders peak on Valentine’s Day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Uber Eats says it also appears to be a resource for forgetful lovers: Its flower orders are 60% higher than average on the day after Valentine’s Day.

Procrastinators can make it tough for businesses to keep customers satisfied.

Linda Bryant grows many of the flowers she sells at Just Bouquets, her flower shop in Panama, Nebraska. Usually she delivers the flowers herself, but on Valentine’s Day her husband helps.

“Valentine’s would not be my favorite florist holiday just because it’s stressful,” she said. “I don’t go out. I’m too tired. But I love making people happy.”

Bryant sympathizes with the people who call in orders on Valentine’s Day. She spent a lot of time trying to figure out how many flowers to order for her shop this Valentine’s Day. The decision was made last minute.

“The people who call on February 14 are usually desperate,” she said. “I try to be kind and remind them, it’s always February 14. The date doesn’t change.”

One could argue that people order flowers at the last minute just to keep them fresh, but the procrastination trend extends beyond goods that wilt.

In 2023, 30% of OpenTable reservations for Valentine’s Day were made the day before and 18% were made on the day of.

Flowers and cards from the drugstore are one thing, but you’re likely to miss out on a special date if you wait too long.

Meadow Brook Hall, a historic estate in Rochester, Michigan, says the 115 tickets available for its annual Valentine’s Day dinner sold out weeks ago. The venue gets requests all the way through Valentine’s Day, says Katie Higgins, Meadow Brook’s marketing and communications manager. The week before the dinner, 50 couples were on the wait list.

Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University in Chicago, says around 20% of men and women are chronic procrastinators. But in the case of Valentine’s Day, there are other reasons consumers might put things off.

“There’s a lot of fatigue. We just did Christmas, now you’re hitting me up for this,” he said. Others procrastinate because they fear failing or buying the wrong gift, he said.

Ferrari has some advice: Don’t procrastinate when it comes to telling people you love them.

“We should be celebrating love all the time, not just once in a while,” he said.

___

AP Business Writer Anne D’Innocenzio in New York contributed to this report.

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Last-minute love: Many Americans procrastinate when it comes to Valentine’s gifts