The age of romance is young

Valentine’s Day may be about romance, but the British – especially as they grow older – believe the occasion is nothing more than a commercial rip-off

Hard-hearted Brits are impervious to the romance of Valentine’s Day, according to a survey from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. The study reveals that while just under a third (31 per cent) of those questioned believe Valentine’s Day is a day for romance, 43 per cent condemn Valentine’s Day as a commercial rip-off, and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) claim they are indifferent to the celebrations.

Men and women are equally sceptical about the event, but young people are the least cynical about the occasion. Thirty-seven per cent of 15to 34-year-olds believe Valentine’s Day is an excuse for a commercial rip-off, compared with 51 per cent of 55to 65-year-olds. Almost half (46 per cent) of 15to 24-year-olds think Valentine’s Day is a time for romance, but this figure dwindles to just 18 per cent among 55to 64-year-olds.

And even the happily married are unlikely to be convinced of the magic of St Valentine. While 37 per cent of single people regard Valentine’s Day as a rip-off, this figure rises to 44 per cent of those who are married or living as couple – perhaps surprisingly the same percentage as those who are widowed, divorced or separated.

Regionally, Londoners are more inclined to romance than those anywhere else in the country. Well over a third (37 per cent) of Londoners say that they believe Valentine’s Day is a time for romance. This compares to just 17 per cent of Scots and 23 per cent of Welsh. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of Londoners believe Valentine’s Day is merely a commercial occasion, compared with 55 per cent of those in Scotland and the West Midlands, and 53 per cent of those who live in the North-west.

Interestingly, women are found to be more cynical and are less likely to splash out on a gift or expect to receive a present. A quarter of women (22 per cent) think that a Valentine’s gift is essential and almost two-thirds (62 per cent) believe a simple card does the job on Valentine’s Day. However, over a third of men (36 per cent) think a gift is vital, and 45 per cent think a card will suffice. Over a third (36 per cent) of those in the South-west believe that just a card is good enough, compared with 16 per cent of those in the East Midlands and 12 per cent of those in Wales.

Nearly half (43 per cent) of those questioned spend nothing on Valentine’s Day presents. Again men are more likely to buy something for their loved ones, and while nearly half of all women (47 per cent) do not buy a present, this figure falls to 38 per cent of men.

Men are also likely to spend more. Twenty-three per cent of men and 27 per cent of women will spend up to &£10, while eight per cent of men will spend anything up to &£50 compared with only four per cent of women. Three per cent of men will spend as much as &£100 compared with just one per cent of women.

Although it may not be surprising that 69 per cent of “singletons” do not spend anything at Valentine’s Day, there is little difference between the percentage of single people who spend nothing on it (31 per cent) and the percentage of those who are married or living with a partner who don’t splash out (40 per cent).

The percentage of those confessing to not spending anything rises from 24 per cent of 15to 24-year-olds to 57 per cent of those aged between 55 and 64, and 71 per cent of the over-65s. Young people are more inclined to spare no expense: ten per cent of 15to 24-year-olds and 11 per cent of 25to 34-year-olds spend up to &£100. But this figure falls to seven per cent of 35to 44-year-olds, three per cent of 45to 54-year-olds and one per cent of 55to 64-year-olds.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day campaigns, sex definitely does not sell. Just five per cent of those questioned say that sexual images in advertising encourage them to buy gifts for Valentine’s Day. Nearly half (46 per cent) say that they would be persuaded by romantic images.

East Anglians are the most likely to be attracted by romantic images, and 66 per cent say that they would be influenced by them compared with 32 per cent of East Midlanders and 35 per cent of those in the North-east. Over half of those aged between 15 and 34 say that they are attracted by romantic images, and those least likely to be wooed by romance are the 55to 64-year-olds (28 per cent).

The CIM Valentine’s Day survey is published as part of CIM’s Three Faces of Women campaign, which will be taking a look at the role of women as consumers, the way women are portrayed by marketers and the career path of senior women in marketing.

Factfile is edited by Sonoo Singh. Sandra Ingham, Chartered Institute of Marketing corporate communications manager, contributed

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