For Valentine's Day, red roses and heart-shaped chocolates are out. Self-care is in (2024)

By Hayley Lind12th February 2024

As young consumers begin to prioritise themselves on 14 February, personal wellness and friendship are taking the front seat.


At 1-800-Flowers, shoppers can easily snap up a dozen red roses ready to ship for Valentine's Day. But this year, they'll also have the choice to purchase a social media-inspired "Girls Night In" flower arrangement, complete with Ghirardelli chocolate, Popcorn Factory kettle corn and rosé spritzers.

"We're constantly looking out for the next big thing, evaluating different colours, styles, varieties and add-ons that may be appropriate for the brand and our products – and attract a younger consumer," says Jason John, chief marketing officer at 1-800-Flowers, a US gifting conglomerate.

Flowers, chocolate and jewellery remain staples for Valentine's Day – a market in which US consumers alone will spend an estimated $26bn (£20.6bn) this year. However, new opportunities have emerged in this space. Not only have fresher takes on traditional gifts appeared, but instead of focusing on partners, many players in the industry have also begun offering products geared towards self-care and wellness.

Instead of doubling down on tried-and-true wares, an increasing number of brands are tailoring their assortments and marketing techniques to these changing consumer tides. And companies that historically might not have fit within the holiday gifting conversation are entering the market. These businesses are all laser-focused on providing options for a new consumer segment that wants to indulge in self-care and "Galentine's" offerings, and shake off the mushy Valentine's Day of yore.

"We are seeing some of the mainstream corporate companies starting to embrace a wider descriptor of what Valentine's Day actually means," says Joanna Feeley, founder and CEO at UK-based trend-forecasting agency Trend Bible. "Valentine's almost needs a rebrand, but it's not dead".

For Valentine's Day, red roses and heart-shaped chocolates are out. Self-care is in (1)

US apparel-retailer Bombas says their Valentine's Day sock bundles have been a success in a changing consumer landscape (Credit: Courtesy of Bombas)

A heart-shaped change of heart

The precarious global economic, political and environmental state may be part of shifting consumer attitudes. Many people feel an overwhelming sense of existential dread, which means they are self-prioritising and leaning into "'I deserve it' purchasing", says Faye Landes, a consumer and retail analyst at Landes Advisors, a US-based consultancy.

Crucially, evolving social sentiments also factor in: many people want the holiday to feel more inclusive, acknowledging the importance of platonic relationships and soothing self-care rituals alongside partner-based gifting. "There's a consumer shift to be more holistic around [Valentine's Day] – meaning it's no longer a day solely for romantic relationships," says Audrey Chee-Read, principal analyst at global market-research firm Forrester, based in Boston.

These factors have given rise to perhaps the biggest evolution in the market: the emergence of the Valentine's Day personal-wellness category. Feeley says consumers have a growing interest in "centring the self". This can look like anything from celebrating singlehood and gifting yourself your favourite treats, to bucking the romantic, saccharine aspects of Valentine's Day messaging altogether.

As such, consumers are concerned with treating themselves and their friends as they would a romantic partner – think of the emergence and rapid spread of "Galentine's Day", coined on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. A 2022 survey from multinational dating platform Plenty of Fish showed that 36% of the 2,000 American Gen Z-ers and millennials surveyed planned to spend Valentine's Day having a self-care night with friends. Young people are especially leading this change: Y Pulse survey data from 2023 showed more than a quarter of Gen Z respondents said they'd likely spend Valentine's Day with friends, and also said they'd buy gifts for them.

These shifts have the door for brands such as Bombas, known widely for their socks. The New York-based apparel retailer's products have typically been most popular for gifting during the December holidays, but Bombas has seen an uptick in sales around Valentine's Day the past few years, with themed sock bundles being best sellers. "Our Valentine's Day offerings this year, specifically for women, have been one of our strongest to date," says the company's chief marketing officer, Kate Huyett.

For Valentine's Day, red roses and heart-shaped chocolates are out. Self-care is in (2)

Los Angeles-based Boy Smells has staked a claim in the Valentine's Day market, matching the consumer desire for personal wellness and inclusivity (Credit: Courtesy of Boy Smells)

New takes on the traditional

This doesn't mean consumers don't want traditional products – they're just looking beyond heart-shaped chocolates.

Social media is a driving force. At 1-800-Flowers, the company has partnered with the 5 Love Languages platform to create arrangements for each "love language": acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch, receiving gifts and quality time. Although the concept has been around since the 90s, it's experienced a revival throughout the past year on social media, particularly TikTok. This viral popularity inspired the retail collaboration, which 1-800-Flowers expects will win over younger consumers.

The Valentine's Day fragrance market has shifted, too. Boy Smells, known for its Instagram-friendly candles and perfumes in genderless scents, says they've seen consumer interest spike for Valentine's Day. Their marketing approach of individuality fits the niche of self-care and friendship for the holiday, says Matthew Herman, the Los Angeles-based brand's cofounder. "This is a sentiment often expressed between close friends and family, more so than lovers or romantic partners."

It is a far cry from the fragrance companies that have relied on romantic, gendered sex appeal to move product – yet Boy Smells has been able to penetrate the multi-million-dollar Valentine's Day fragrance market.

Ultimately, brands must adapt. Across many categories, consumer trends are shifting – a change largely propelled by young consumers. The holiday is yet another example of how people are directing their dollars to align with their values and lifestyles. And if there's money to be had, Cupid's arrow will hit the mark.

For Valentine's Day, red roses and heart-shaped chocolates are out. Self-care is in (2024)


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