Valentine's Day gets more fun as it gets less romantic

Valentine's Day is upon us and before I rush out to buy more frivolous trinkets for my kids and husband, I thought I'd take a look at some holiday trends. I think my research shows Valentine's Day is actually improving as a national holiday. First, here are some factoids to digest:

* The National Retail Federation estimates that spending on Valentine's this year willl reach $17 billion. For flower sellers, this holiday accounts for about 30% of their business, their biggest holiday. For greeting card makers, it is second only to Christmas. For restaurants, it is the second biggest night for dining out after Mother's Day.

* The average person is expected to spend $123 on Valentine's Day cards and gifts this year, based on surveys. That's roughly flat with last year.

* Men say they will spend twice as much as women, but I don't believe it for a second.

* I also think total spending could surprise to the upside this year. The expectation is that consumers will trim spending due to the slower economy. But the latest economic reports showed a rebound in consumer spending in January. And Valentine's Day has some serious momentum behind it for increased spending: Total spending per person is up 20% from 2004 and 2005 when it was around $100 and up 50% from 2003 and 2001 when it was more like $80.

* What has changed this year? People say they will spend less on traditional gifts -- flowers, candy, jewelry, cards – although those gifts are still what people spend the most money on. This year more people expect to celebrate with a special night out: 48% up from 45%, the retail federation found.

* Another change: Folks are spending more on Valentine's gifts to people other than a romantic partner. That includes friends and co-workers, kids' school friends and teachers. People also buy Valentines for their pets: $367 million.

So here's my rationale for why Valentine's Day is improving: Sure, people are spending more, but we're still a long way away from Christmas bonanza of overspending. An average of $120 per person for a little fun in the midst of February doldrums is reasonable, I'd argue -- especially since that sum may be distributed to a dozen or more friends, co-workers, children or pets.

Better yet, we seem to be getting away from the awful romantic pressure of Valentine's Day. Seems to me Feb. 14 is turning into more of a holiday for whimsical cards and trinkets for family and friends and less one offering a particularly sharp form of torment to anyone without a romantic partner.

Am I right about that? Maybe I only think that because I'm an old married lady who spent last night helping my four-year-old write her name on My Little Pony Valentines. Singletons, what say you?

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