NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Valentine's Day is best illustrated in one series of actions: Withdraw from an ATM what you'd usually spend on date night, withdraw that amount again, show it to the person you love most and then flush the entire sum down the nearest toilet.
That's basically the way every U.S. consumer has spent Valentine's Day since Esther Howland imposed the first mass-market Valentine's Day cards on the American public during the 1840s. Now the whole sordid, red-painted affair is a nearly $18 billion industry that trails only Thanksgiving ($30.5 billion) and Christmas ($135 billion) in holiday spending, according to IBISWorld. That's almost $3 billion more than what's spent on Mother's Day. Sorry, mom, but they just met at a bar two months ago and neither of them are getting any younger.
|Valentine's Day is a melange of markups and misery, starting with the dozen roses selling for an average of about $59 in early January but around $80 the week before Valentine's day.|
That spending is only going up this year. The National Retail Federation estimates that American suckers ... er ... lovers are about to spend an average of $128 a pop to avoid getting the silent treatment or a stern dressing down. That's a nearly 8.5% increase from last year and includes an average $37 worth of flowers and $72 for a night out. It's a heart-shaped box of lovestruck spending that hides a rancid center of markups and emotional extortion.
The problem is that a few carnation stems from the nearest 7-Eleven just don't cut it on Valentine's Day. The Society of American Florists says 71% of flowers given on Valentine's Day are roses, with 196 million roses grown for Valentine's Day 2011 alone. That's a tough order to fill after Christmas, which sucks up 30% of the year's plant and flower purchases and gives growers only 50 to 70 days to work on the Valentine's Day supply. It doesn't help that Valentine's Day, which ranks third behind Christmas and Mother's Day, with 20% of annual plant and flower volume and 25% of sales, vaults to No. 1 when it comes to sales of fresh flowers. Roughly 36% of all flower volume and 40% of flower revenue comes from Valentine's Day sales.With 36% of Americans planning to buy flowers for Valentine's Day, according to the NRF, the holiday lead-up becomes a bizarro Black Friday for flower sellers. A dozen roses that sell for an average of little more than $59 in early January suddenly go for closer to $80 the week before Valentine's day, according to the SAF. That's a 33% premium before you've even picked up your date. Once that happens, even the most thoughtful romantics find themselves hamstrung by holiday restaurant reservations. A finite supply of restaurant seating and a whole lot of demand can turn professional-grade wooing into amateur hour.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV