February 2017

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Valentine’s Day: History, Tradition and Diamonds

Valentine’s Day is considered the most romantic day of the year throughout the Western world. Yet, thanks to the widespread influence of Western culture, other cultures have also adopted the tradition of celebrating Valentine’s Day, in addition to their own romantic holidays. Generally, when people think of Valentine’s Day, they think about love, marriage and proposals. Giving diamonds on Valentine’s Day seems like a given. But, are diamonds really a popular Valentine’s gift?

Valentine’s Day: How it Began

There are many myths surrounding the origins of Valentine’s Day. According to legend there are three possible St. Valentines. The roots of the celebration come from the Roman festival of Lupercalia, which was a fertility celebration held on February 15th. In 496 Pope Gelasius declared the holiday to be a Christian feast day, celebrated on February 14th, and called it St. Valentine’s Day. The question remained, which St. Valentine was he naming it for? One St. Valentine was a Roman priest, one a bishop in Terni and one died in Africa. Supposedly all were martyred on February 14th, making it difficult to distinguish for which the honor was bestowed.

Traditionally, in Western culture, men and women in romantic relationships do something special together on Valentine’s Day, and give each other gifts. Typical gifts include going out to eat, flowers, chocolates, diamond jewelry and more.

The Valentine’s Statistics

In 2016, Valentine’s spending grew by $1.6 billion over the previous year, with the average man spending twice as much as the average woman. As a whole, Valentine’s is still considered a romantic holiday, but as the times change, many people are beginning to regard Valentine’s as a ‘love’ holiday, a celebration of all loving relationships, including family and friends, and not just a celebration of an exclusive romantic connection. Some even choose to celebrate with their pets!

According to a survey, the largest proportion of spending on Valentine’s gifts is made by 25-34 year olds, followed by 35-44, and then 18-24. Of those that purchase gifts, 21.2 percent make Valentine’s purchases for their pets. An overwhelming 71 percent of shoppers believe that shopping online will provide better deals than in-store shopping. Retailers, particularly those selling diamonds and jewelry on Valentine’s Day, may benefit from stronger online marketing promotions.

As a romantic holiday, diamonds and jewelry seems an obvious purchase choice for Valentine’s Day consumers. However, while the diamond industry relies on gift-giving holidays to boost sales, statistics show that the highest percentage of diamonds are sold for engagements and weddings, followed by Christmas and Mother’s Day, with only the smallest proportion buying diamonds for Valentine’s Day.

A survey by the Georgetown Institute for Consumer Research indicated that the top five gifts women expect to receive for Valentine’s Day include candy or chocolates, flowers, cards, meals and other non-material gifts. All these fall way ahead of jewelry on the survey. Many experts believe this is due to the commercial nature of the holiday, which takes away some of the romance typically associated with jewelry. And, because jewelry retailers heavily discount diamonds in an effort to get people to buy them for Valentine’s Day, many feel it serves to weaken the romantic symbolism of the gemstone.

Valentine’s in Other Cultures

 Many Asians now celebrate their own versions of the Western Valentine’s Day on February 14th, however they also have their own romantic holiday. The traditional Chinese version of Valentine’s is called the Qixi Festival, celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar. The origins of the holiday are derived from a story about young lovers, separated and only allowed to reunite for one day a year. During this holiday people buy chocolates, flowers and gifts for their loved ones.

Japan’s version of Valentine’s is slightly different, as women are the gift-givers. Generally, they give a gift of chocolates. Different types of chocolates are traditionally given to different people – “obligation chocolate” for teachers, co-workers and bosses, “favorite chocolate” for romantic relationships and “friendship chocolate” which school children give to each other. Japan also celebrates “White Day” on March 14th, in which men return the favor to the women by giving them chocolate gifts, most often white chocolate. It is not customary to give diamonds on Valentine’s Day in Asian cultures.

Thanks to the changing meaning behind Valentine’s Day, it may have become more difficult for retailers to sell diamonds and jewelry on the holiday. Tips offered by experts include targeting last minute shoppers. By offering these late shoppers special discounts or overnight shipping, retailers can help improve sales. In addition, experts believe retailers should focus on male consumers, who do twice as much Valentine’s shopping as women, and perhaps even forge relationships with popular and influential YouTubers, by getting your products featured in gift “hauls”.

By narrowing down your marketing strategy and focusing on those who can really make a difference to your sales, you can enable your Valentine’s product to hit the target.

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