Along with love, Valentine’s Day means billions in commerce

Kansas City StarFebruary 14, 2012 

If you pay attention to the Twittersphere, Hallmark Cards invented Valentine’s Day to sell cards. Wrong — by about three centuries.

Americans began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s a woman named Esther Howland began selling what’s thought to be the first mass-produced valentines.

That was about 70 years before Joyce Hall, Hallmark’s founder, famously started selling cards out of a shoebox in Kansas City.

There’s no doubt, though, that Valentine’s Day gives card sellers a huge boost. Today’s holiday is No. 2 behind Christmas for generating card sales.

The Greeting Card Association expects 150 million to 160 million Valentine’s Day cards to be bought in the United States this year, or about the same number purchased last year.

That figure, excluding the boxed children’s sets, includes cards that range from 99 cents to more than $10 each. The National Retail Federation estimates total card sales at $1.1 billion.

What’s also expected to hold constant this year is that women tend to purchase about eight out of 10 cards.

So where do men spend their Valentine’s Day dollars?

According to the National Retail Federation, this year’s biggest outlay is expected to be for jewelry. Try $3.5 billion on for size. Hot on that industry’s heels will be dining out. Restaurant tabs of $3.4 billion are expected for what can be the busiest dining-out day of the year for many establishments.

The Society of American Florists thinks floral gifts will reach $1.7 billion.

And the National Confectioners Association expects a 4 percent surge in candy sales to more than $1 billion. The National Retail Federation forecasts even sweeter sales at $1.5 billion.

All told, total holiday spending for Valentine’s Day is expected to reach $15.7 billion, including sexy lingerie, pajamas, and other odds and ends.

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