Barclaycard: two fifths of retailers expecting to see a sales boost this ‘virtual’ Valentine’s Day

Retailers are feeling the love in the run up to Valentine’s Day, with two fifths (41%) expecting to see a sales boost, according to new research from Barclaycard Payments, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions.

Traditionally an important milestone in the retail calendar, it seems this 14 February won’t disappoint, with Brits planning to spend £787m in a bid to keep the romance alive amidst national lockdown restrictions.

Of the 41% of businesses expecting to see growth this year, they are predicting their sales to rise by 26% on average. As a result, almost two thirds (63%) of retailers have enhanced their e-commerce capabilities, with three in 10 (31%) boosting their online advertising. A further 27% are expanding their product or service offerings, and one in four (26%) is increasing online stock availability.

This anticipated uplift in sales is also increasing optimism, as almost four in 10 (37%) say it’s making them feel more optimistic about their business’ future.

A very virtual Valentine’s

As Brits prepare to spend the day in lockdown, many couples are looking to make the most of the occasion with 70% of those living with a partner planning to celebrate.

More than a quarter (26%) are organising an ‘at home’ date night, while other popular activities include ordering a takeaway (17%), dining in with a supermarket meal (8%) and going for a romantic walk (8%).

Savvy retailers are also adapting to cater for the six in 10 (62%) couples who live apart but who want to mark the event. Over half (52%) are offering specific ‘Virtual Valentine’s’ products, including a broader range of gifts (24%), vouchers which can be redeemed at a later date (20%) and chocolates to be delivered to the recipients’ door (15%).

Some businesses are also capitalising on the rising trend of lockdown date nights. One in seven retailers (14%) is selling Valentine’s Day takeaway boxes for food and drink, and 10% is offering a romantic online experience for the night, such as cocktail making or a cookery lesson.

Kirsty Morris, managing director at Barclaycard Payments, said: “Businesses need to be able to adapt to consumer behaviours and trends and this couldn’t be more true for this Valentine’s Day. While some gifting traditions stand the test of time, the way we’re purchasing these items is certainly different this year.

“It’s encouraging to see retailers have remained agile throughout the pandemic and are supporting their customers in new ways – whether that’s sending flowers with same-day-delivery, offering personal shopping experiences online, or expanding products and services to meet new demand. It’s great that this popular occasion is bringing some much needed optimism to retailers, and giving them confidence in the future of their businesses.”

Elizabeth Galton, marketing director at Ernest Jones, said: “The impact of the pandemic restrictions has certainly challenged us to think differently about this Valentine’s Day. Despite the shift in focus from store to online, we’ve kept the shopping experience alive for our customers. We’ve seen significant adoption of our personalised virtual ‘Talk to an Expert’ appointments and Live Chat service, and these are just some of the ways we have adapted our business.

“Our store colleagues have worked hard to guide clients through virtual purchases– enhancing the experience by providing all the advice and counsel they would normally receive in-store. We’re pleased our virtual appointments and virtual try on service for engagement rings have been so popular with customers. As a result of these initiatives, we have seen an increase in branded and fine diamonds jewellery sales, traditionally popular time at this time of year.”

Charlotte Langley, brand & communications director at Bloom & Wild, said: “As an online brand and the inventor of letterbox flowers, Bloom & Wild has rooted itself in keeping loved ones – near and far – connected through thoughtful gifts. This year we have focused on making our range more thoughtful than ever. Based on the insight that 79% would prefer a unique and thoughtful gift over something traditional like red roses, we won’t be selling them at all this year. Instead, our unique bouquets are all about saying ‘I know you’ and showing how wildly you care.”