Americans are projected to spend a record $20.7 billion on gifts to give their significant others this Valentine’s Day, but consumers are also purchasing more for their children, parents, friends and even pets, according to the National Retail Federation.

Cheryl Bridges, an expert in retailing and the interim director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, says people are moving away from the traditional gifts of candy and flowers and toward more unique or experiential gifts.

“While traditional gifts are still important, and the candy business will still do well this Valentine’s Day, the customers are changing and moving away from cards and flowers,” Bridges said. “They are wanting to give more unique gifts or new experiences. One new trend we are seeing is people giving books as a Valentine’s gift. It’s unique, can be sentimental and still shows the person that you care.”

Bridges says that some of the top gifts expected for this year are couples’ events and maps of the stars to commemorate special days. Some animal lovers are purchasing bedding for pets as gifts.

“Valentine’s is about showing people that they matter to you,” Bridges said. “It’s all about showing the people in your life that you care. For example, many people want to give a gift to a friend that they can do together, like a spa day or trip. ... Others even celebrate their pets on Valentine’s — roughly 20 percent of people will give their pets a gift this year.”

With Valentine’s being the first major gift-giving holiday since Christmas, Bridges says a lot of people want to take the opportunity to share their feelings with one another again.

“Valentine’s Day is an emotional time of the year, and many people are starting to miss the holiday season, so people are prepared to spend the money and do something nice,” Bridges said.

A study by the NRF found that while the amount of spending for Valentine’s Day is at an all-time high, the percentage of people who say they are planning to celebrate has gone down from 55 percent in 2018 to 51 percent this year. The NRF also found that those surveyed will spend an average of $161.96 on Valentine’s Day.

“[Valentine’s] is still a big business. I just believe that customers are looking for something new and meaningful to gift, and they are taking the time and money to give gifts that are thoughtful,” Bridges said.

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