While some may think of Valentine's Day as a day to show their sweetie how much they care, many people also use the holiday to express their feelings to family, friends and even pets.
In fact, one group projects that buyers will spend more this year on non-romantic Valentines, while being more frugal than usual when it comes to gifts for their sweethearts.
But don't blame Cupid for the inequity. Economic conditions are leading people to give more meaningful, less extravagant gifts, experts say.
"The economy has forced consumers to rethink their gift-giving practices," notes Phil Rist, executive vice president of research firm BIGresearch. "People and unique gifts will speak volumes this Valentine's Day as consumers dig deep into their hearts and not their wallets."
The National Retail Federation expects couples to spend an average of $63.34 on gifts for each other, down from last year's average of $67.22. Meanwhile, shoppers will spend an average of $5.37 per friend this year compared to $4.74 in 2009; $4.29 on classmates compared to $3.59 in 2009; and $3.27 on pets compared to $2.17 in 2009. Overall, shoppers will shell out an average of $103 for Valentine gifts this year—or a total of $14.1 billion.
Flowers and candy will again be popular gifts, but consumers will bypass high-cost products such as jewelry, and purchase "personal and practical gifts," the NRF notes. The organization predicts that 14.4 percent of consumers will opt for winter clothing and accessories, an increase of about 4 percent compared to 2009. Less than 16 percent of shoppers are expected to buy jewelry.
"While some may view Valentine's Day as cliche, many people still look forward to giving significant others, friends, family and even pets something special," says Tracy Mullin, NRF's president and CEO. "Rather than not give anything at all, consumers will instead focus on small, thoughtful gifts for the people who mean the most to them this year."
To attract buyers, Auctiva Product Analyst Rebecca Miller recommends including phrases like "a good Valentine's Day gift" in an item's title or description. And sellers should mention that they'll ship products promptly, she adds.
"Since Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday this year, that doesn't leave much time for delivery of items that people want to give, so ship via Priority Mail, and opt for short listing times (three days)," Miller suggests.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.