Valentine’s Day: Christmas Continued?

While many of those planning to hit the malls for Valentine’s Day gifts wait until the
last minute, online consumers’ fears that purchases would not reach their
loved ones in timely fashion have forced them to procrastinate less since
e-commerce traffic for the holiday began picking up the first week of the new year.

Of the estimated $3.6 billion people will spend on Valentine’s Day shopping,
approximately $730 million of it will be spent online, with two out of three
home Internet users expecting to shop online for Valentine’s Day, according
to a survey completed by PC Data Online.

Nielsen//NetRatings looked at the five weeks leading up to the holiday and reported the percentage of women
shopping online dwarfed the number of men shopping on the Web by a 70
percent to 30 percent ratio. This statistic ruled despite the fact that the
majority of ad impressions were targeted toward men.

It also held despite PC Data’s finding that women were likely to spend $61
less than men on their significant other. On average, male respondents said
they expect to spend $107 for Valentine’s Day gifts, while women expect to
spend $46. The PC Data survey covered 1,346 home-based Net users between
Feb. 7 and Feb. 9. What’s more, NetRatings said that women make up 80
percent of the number of gift certificates purchased, suggesting that both
women and men are at a loss to figure out what men want from their
significant other.

“As fast as Christmas ads were going down, ads for Valentine’s day were
going up — online and offline,” said Peggy O’Neill, director of analytical
services at Nielsen//NetRatings. Advertising for Valentine’s Day spiked in
the last week of January, with a 300 percent gain from Jan. 23 to Jan. 30.

Not surprisingly then, dot-com traffic surged the week before Valentine’s
Day, though jewelry purchases plummeted, presumably because consumers made
their heftier buys ahead of time. However, some analysts say we haven’t seen
the buying spike yet, as we are on the verge of the weekend.

“Valentine’s Day gifts are typically bought at the last minute and our
review of online traffic to gifts, flowers, greeting cards and
jewelry sites confirms this,” said Sean Wargo, Internet analyst for PC Data
Online. “Look for the spike representing Valentine’s Day
purchases to occur this weekend.”

Both Wargo and O’Neill agreed that although the percentage of women shopping
online is double the number of men, more men will go online for last minute
shopping this weekend.

Here is a look at percentages of Valentine’s Day shopping for the week
beginning Jan. 30, ending Feb. 6, as culled by Nielsen//NetRatings:

Categories Feb. 6 Jan. 30 %
Gifts 384996 204,835 88
Lingerie 530,190 297,723 78.1
Gift Certificates 259,351 146,240 77.3
Flowers 617,899 467,937 32
Cards 6,804,102 5,246,643 29.7
Super Stores 8,447,759 8,346,756 1.2
Jewelry 144,004 230,985 -37.7

The slim change in superstore purchases underscored the idea that people
looked to buy Valentine items at smaller niche stores, such as and Victoria’s rather than
from heavyweights such as (AMZN)
and (BUYC)
. The idea that shopping at smaller stores as a seasonal brand of commerce
mirrors the model for brick-and-mortar businesses.

O’Neill stressed that people haven’t changed in terms of what they like to
buy. What has changed, she said, is the number of online venues where people
may shop.

“Compared to last year there a lot more sites available for people to shop.
You have jewelry this year, which you didn’t have last year,” she said,
referring to sites like,
which offers a Valentine’s Day Vault, in which shoppers may visit and select
items from a list price ranges, from $29.99 to $799.99.

O’Neill said the shopping will cool off for a while, at least until May when
Mother’s Day will send people to their computers to buy. People may also ook
for Grandparent’s Day, Secretary’s Day, and a number of specific religious
holidays for retailers to promote their merchandise online.

And because consumers may be assaulted by a dizzying array of e-mails
ordering them to shop at a specific site, customer service portal Feedback
Direct Inc. has developed a list of leading merchants where people may buy
any assortment of items for Valentine’s Day. Shoppers can get that vertical
list here.

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