Valentine’s Day: The retail power of love

Valentine's Window

Since way back when, even before that giant of an American greeting card company, ‘Hallmark’, first coined the phrase “…It’s that Hallmark time of year…,” the concept of there being key seasonal hallmarks of the retail calendar has permeated our high streets and influenced the way we shop.

Who knew that Halloween would become such a key date in the UK calendar for retailers? As a YANK myself, I was deeply moved if not to say moderately perplexed the day I first started seeing ‘Libby’s Pumpkin Pie’ showing up on local grocery store shelves in London, especially this past October. It would seem the “Hallmark” time of year knows no geographical bounds.

The essence of Hallmark as a greeting card company, was to create an occasion worth buying for. Sometimes for a poignant reason, sometimes just for fun, often entirely fabricated. But by giving customers the suggestions and inspiration to buy year round, it paved the way for other retailers to make the most of those slower months of the retail year.

Valentine’s Day is the first of these big retail “Hallmarks” of the year. It’s been around for a long time because the world loves a big-gush-fest! But now it’s more elaborate than ever. Retailers are using the month of February to give us customers a big hug – red retail packaging begins to dominate gifting; food and drink businesses create specific product ranges and then morph them into romantic suggestions.

Red Box_VesperThe “Lovenomics”, as a Business Life study in 2014 termed it, shows that 65% of us send a greetings card for Valentine’s Day, an annual increase of £1m. Then there’s 21% of us who give flowers and 26% of Britain’s celebrating the event by going out to eat.

Jewellery, chocolates and lingerie all show an increase, albeit by smaller percentages. What’s interesting about all of this is that what was once just a simple day of the year for couples to celebrate, is now a big business for retailers across pretty much every retail categories. Over the years, the mainstay Hallmark holidays of Christmas, Valentine’s and Halloween etc are now joined by new additions.

We now have Grandparents Day to sit alongside Mothering Sunday and Father’s Day. We also mustn’t forget Secretary’s Day which is just one of the many new occasions to highlight over the year. Each year we compile a list of national food and drinks awareness days – a useful resource for creating attractive hotspots throughout your year.

To traditionalists, this ‘newish’ influx of commercialism is probably dismissed as vulgar. I can already here the chit chat at the pub, “…. We never had that before, so why do we need it now….?” The truth is Hallmark occasions are not necessarily something we need, but something that can help you punctuate the year and aid you in keeping displays and merchandising fresh and current. Ultimately they help to grow business and the economy as well.

Is that such a bad thing? Is the heart-shaped pizza a sign of the obnoxious or is it just a fun way to shape a pizza in February? In my opinion, in a world which is becoming increasingly difficult, the “Hallmark time of year,” is not only harmless, but it can add a bit of fun too! Although, I do draw the line at a side dish of ‘mushy peas for two’…

WBC’s Valentine’s Day collection of gift and hamper packaging is online now.


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