The Economics of Valentine’s Day

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Could Cupid be the economic stimulus that we sorely need this year?Ok, I exaggerate slightly, but judging by this past holiday season’s dismal performance, Valentine’s Day might just be the panacea for our socio-economic woes.The Christmas shopping season began with a mediocre Black Friday shopping experience as shoppers vacillated between spending during the festive season, and saving their hard-earned cash for a rainy day. No doubt as the new, more streamlined and fledgling economy cautiously emerged from the wreckage generated over the past year, it has become apparent that shoppers are still hesitant to plunge headlong into the wild-spending patterns that characterized previous Christmas shopping periods. Indeed, many stores extended their discounts till even after the new year, in order to capture those consumers who held out for the cheapest deals. But what’s clear was the this time around, Christmas shopping didn’t even come close to the 69.9 million shopping orders placed around the same time in 2008, nor did it reflect that just a year before, $12.8 billion worth of goods and services were ordered and consumed by Canadian households.But what about Valentine’s Day?It’s timed conveniently enough that the gloom of the Christmas season doesn’t sour it over too much. And although it’s technically only been half a year since the recession “ended” in 2009, it is really our first occasion to celebrate under the auspices of a recognized holiday this year. It affords us the opportunity to celebrate love and relationships, and also revel in the excitement of the cheery predictions made for the new year and the new decade to come, helping us reverse some of that negativity.For this Valentine’s Day, many pundits predict a definite upswing in consumer spending. While it may not match Christmas madness in sheer volume, it should at least (just this once) beat it in terms of shopping enthusiasm and optimism. Projections for this year augur that although couples may spend less on one another, overall spending per capita will increase. Extrapolating from American data, Canadians are expected to spend about nearly $103 per capita this Valentine’s season. Data from Stats Canada tells us that businesses collected nearly $1 billion in sales from chocolate-induced madness, sold approximately $312 million – or a whopping 18.6 million litres – of sparkling wines, and more than 13.7 million stems of roses each year. Of course, not all of that was spent in February, but one could easily reason that Valentine’s day could claim a significant portion of these spendings.Moreover, with the Canadian dollar coming up to parity with the U.S. dollar this year, predictions abound that Canadian consumers will take advantage of crowdsourced, comparison and cross-border shopping engines in order to find the best deals to spend their money on. Hopefully a spending resurgence can be revived through the use of these ingenious online tools for Valentine’s Day preparations, and if popularized by the shopping drive for V-Day, for a vastly convenienced shopping experience in the time after as well.We may not share that kind of fiscal insanity this year (maybe next year), but any bit of productive spending will help buoy the consumer-driven economy that we have. Perhaps the cheer and bonhomie of this festive season will tide us over the bad times and remind us of the good ones again. After all, just like in relationships, so in real life – shouldn’t we be making the most of every opportunity that comes our way?