Valentine’s Day 2014: Sweetheart Spending in Asia

Category: Culture, International Business

The National Retail Federation in the U.S. estimates that Valentine’s Day this year will pump roughly $17.3B into the economy, down about a billion from 2013. The most popular gift in the U.S. is also the cheapest: the humble greeting card and candy, though high-dollar expenditures such as a night on the town or jewelry will account for a significant chunk of the Valentine’s Day budget.

In the East, though, Valentine’s Day isn’t quite the free-for-all. Countries like Japan and South Korea have a more structured approach to giving, both in gifts and timing. Japan’s tradition on February 14th is called “Red Day” and centers on women giving chocolate gifts to men as a token of their love. The practice may have originated with the Mary Chocolate Company in the 1950s. One month later, on March 14th, the men are supposed to reciprocate on “White Day.”

In truth, this ritual has softened somewhat and today the Japanese offer chocolates to everyone from colleagues to friends and grandparents. In 2011, florists began an aggressive campaign to claim a portion of the $1.24B spent each year, promoting “Mr. Flower Valentine.”

South Korea takes the “White Day” holiday thirty days further with “Black Day” on April 14th, when those who received nothing in February or March gather to eat black noodles to lament the single life. In fact, the 14th day of every month in Korea is a love-related holiday — Rose Day, Kiss Day, Wine Day and Movie Day are just a few of the holidays that prolong the Valentine’s spirit and keep the romantic spending going all year round.

Speaking of love-related revenues, China is not to be overlooked. While Valentine’s Day does spur some spending, a trend that florists and chocolate vendors capitalize on, Chinese Valentine’s Day (in August) and China’s “Single’s Day” on 11/11 (a date which symbolizes bachelors as “bare branches”) bring in astonishing cash in the name of love. Affection raked in $5.75B in online spending alone in 24 hours last year.

Any way you look at it, people around the world will be cashing in on romance tomorrow.