Valentine’s Day isn’t what it used to be.
Just over half of Americans say they celebrate the day, down 13% since 2009, according to the National Retail Federation. But all is not lost.
Counter celebrations like Galentine’s Day, which touts female friendships, are on the rise, and consumers in general are increasingly marking Feb. 14 by spending money on their friends — in addition to their sweethearts. Spending on friends will increase to almost $15 this year, more than double the level in 2017, an NRF survey found.
People “want to celebrate everyone they care about and not just their significant other,” said Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights at the NRF.
The concept of Galentine’s Day was introduced a decade ago in an episode of the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation.” Actress Amy Poehler’s character celebrated the invented holiday with her friends on Feb. 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, giving them gift bags filled with presents like a portrait made from crushed bottles of their favorite diet soda. The hashtag #GallentinesDay trended on Twitter this week.
Ever since, retailers have pounced on the phenomenon with savvy marketing. There are Galentine gifts guides on sites including Amazon and Etsy, pitching items like “Ovaries before Broveries” stickers. On Etsy, a search on Galentine brings up 22,000 items, including brunch invitations and balloons.
Hallmark offers more than a dozen Galentine’s Day cards, and of its more than 1,200 Valentine’s Day options about half celebrate non-romantic relationships. This year it has shifted its Valentine’s Day marketing to the theme of friendship, with a TV commercial telling the story of a teenage girl who is being cyber-bullied, but has her spirits lifted by a card from her BFF.
Some brands and retailers, like cosmetics company Jill Stuart and Seattle-based running shoemaker Brooks are hosting pop-ups and parties for shoppers to attract new customers, according to Eventbrite, which runs an online platform that lets people create, organize and promote gathering.
And it’s not just retailers who are seizing on opportunities to bolster business. Chicago restaurant Eden offers brunch and dinner specials on Feb. 13 dedicated to “ladies celebrating ladies.” Chicago Period Project, an organization that supports women’s health, is hosting its third annual Galentine’s Day event at a local bar, including drink specials, arcade games, a photo booth and products from local businesses.
Eventbrite says there are more than 1,300 Galentine events on its platform this year, about a 50% jump from last year, encompassing craft workshops, comedy nights and charity events.
“People who don’t want to be alone on the holiday are looking for ways to gather and be around others,” said Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends specialist at digital-coupon provider RetailMeNot. “In most cases that means spending money.”
Americans under 45 are fueling the trend. Those 35 to 44 are the the biggest spenders — dishing out $33.33 on average, according to the NRF. Meanwhile, the 18-34 crowd is also in the mix, with more than a third saying they plan to spend on their friends.
The trend isn’t for everyone. Consumers who have chosen not to spend money on their significant other aren’t suddenly about to dole out gifts to their friends, the NRF’s Cullen said.
“Those who don’t care, don’t want anything to do with it,” she said.
But marketers are even trying to lure that crowd with “anti-valentine” cards and gifts. One bestseller on Etsy’s website has this greeting: “Happy consumer-driven and trivial interpretation of love day.”