Dr Steve McCabe
Dr Steven McCabe – Birmingham City Business School

 It is estimated that in this country on St Valentine’s Day this Thursday we will spend approximately £900 million. This amount of spending is not insignificant for what many deride as an invention to make us feel more romantic and give us a reason to express our love for partners and, possibly, those who are not yet!

What is really fascinating is that the proportional split in spending between men and women is vastly skewed to the former who in previous years have accounted for 70 per cent. Showing your love in the UK, it seems, is a male thing.

According to surveys carried out the top ten gifts bought by men are as follows:

  1.  Flowers
  2. Chocolates
  3. Romantic meal
  4. Perfume
  5. Cuddly toy
  6. Night in a hotel
  7. Lingerie
  8. UK short break
  9. Jewellery
  10. Beauty treatment

This list doesn’t account for the fact that card manufacturers and those who retail them will enjoy additional business which, in many cases, will be sent by post. Whilst St Valentine’s Day card sales will still be in the millions they are declining. Like other events such as Christmas people communicate electronically. So, last year, for instance, an additional 11 million texts were sent compared to any other day in February.

As this list above suggests if you supply gifts or ‘services’ that have a romantic inclination you can boost your profits this Thursday. For example, try ringing up a high street florist and find out how much a bunch of red roses will cost. According to research I have seen, Yorkshire is the part of the UK which experiences the highest increase in flower sales.

In the current climate of austerity there is a probably a view that spending a little extra on the one you love will make everyone feel better. The fact that it provides a temporary boost in demand is no bad thing; Derbyshire-based Thorntons produce an additional 100,000 million kg of its products to cater for St Valentine’s Day.

A romantic meal for two is, of course, a traditional way to celebrate your love for one another though there is always the question of who pays. As we all know, for those willing to search the internet there are always good deals through vouchers. Given that last year in the couple of weeks up to St Valentine’s day an additional 150,000 restaurant vouchers were downloaded from VoucherCodes.co.uk – representing an increase of 300 per cent on the previous year – we should expect this trend to continue.

However, in these cash-strapped times people are just as likely to have a night in and supermarkets cater for this with their meals for two (many packages including a bottle of wine or even champagne). Interestingly, sales of romantic paraphernalia such as candles and decorations are up this year, especially here in Birmingham.

Sadly, there are tales of women who return the lingerie they have received from amorous admirers in order to exchange it for underwear they believe is more appropriate for everyday wear. However, should the lingerie (or any of the other gifts) do the trick you need to think about what comes next?

In advance of St Valentine’s Day Guardian Money Research at the weekend provided guidance as to where to obtain cheap condoms which, depending on a number of factors (and personal preferences), can range from 9p to £1.50 each. But for those who resent having to spend anything on protection they can be obtained for nothing. You can get free condoms from community contraception clinics (family planning clinics), NHS sexual health clinics, youth clubs and they are frequently available in many gay pubs and clubs.

To all those who are in love or, at the very least, have romantic intentions, I wish you a Happy St Valentine’s Day this Thursday.

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Dr Steve McCabe

Dr Steve McCabe

Birmingham City Business School