The Valentine’s Day dinner tradition for Teresa Glass’ family is usually a night at Wegmans with the kids and a weekend fondue party with old neighbors. Meghana Sharma and her boyfriend are using the holiday as an excuse to head to Flushing, N.Y., over the weekend for their own dumpling crawl. Abbe Stern is throwing a “Galentine’s Day” self-care party for her girlfriends at the LUSH in Center City.
None of these Philadelphia-area residents are planning the traditional Valentine’s Day, as shown by the love-themed advertisements that say fancy dinner, flowers, chocolate, and jewelry are the best ways to proclaim how much you love a significant other.
Instead, they’re part of a growing number of people who may not say they are celebrating Valentine’s Day specifically but still plan to spend money in some fun way around the holiday.
“This just seems like a much more fulfilling way to celebrate our relationship,” said Sharma, 24, of West Philadelphia. She and her boyfriend of a year and a half have been trying to learn to make dumplings for about six months now and she said they’ve grown as a couple through cooking. “We’re just definitely more into experiencing new things together.”
Spending this Valentine’s Day is expected to increase 6 percent to $20.7 billion this year, breaking the 2016 record of $19.7 billion, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. But the spending seems to be increasing in nontraditional Valentine’s Day traditions.
While people still purchase the traditional roses, chocolate boxes, and jewelry, a quarter of people celebrating this year said they were looking to gift an experience to loved ones beyond a spouse or partner.
“It’s easier and easier to acquire stuff, but people are also saying I don’t need just stuff anymore,” said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. " That’s all part of some general trend and it would make sense that you might see it in terms of Valentine’s Day."
It’s smart of retailers to advertise to the array of people who may or may not have romantic plans on Valentine’s Day, Kahn added. The concept of sharing memories or experiences is a more “modern point of view” about people’s roles in relationships, whether that is a significant other or friend, and helps more broadly define what Valentine’s Day means to consumers.
Though people are spending more for Valentine’s Day, the percent of people celebrating has dropped when compared with a decade ago, the survey found. This year 53 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day, down from 72 percent in 2009.