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Valentine’s Day: Fewer love it, more leave it

Eye On Money

Michael Cohen is a diehard for Valentine's Day. The 33-year-old recruiter has a six-item to-do list for the day, including surprises, flowers, a fancy dinner out, a small piece of jewelry and a stuffed toy, all totaling about $400 -- and that's before the homemade gifts of cards, poems and videos.

"I've always done the hopeless romantic thing all the time -- Valentine's Day is just another excuse," he said. Since meeting his wife about five years ago he has actually had to tone down the celebrations because, he said, she isn't as "super-extravagant and over the top" as he is.

People like Cohen are becoming less common but more devoted, if a long-running retail survey is to be believed.

The percentage of Americans planning to celebrate V-Day has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Just over 50 percent said they plan to celebrate the chocolate-and-greeting-card fest, down from two-thirds a decade ago.

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But the romantics are doubling down on spending, even as their numbers dwindle. The amount spent on V-Day has increased every year of the NRF study, and it's set to hit a record $20 billion this year. That will put spending per person at $162.

What's behind this shift? One reason could be that consumers -- especially younger ones -- are moving away from buying things and toward spending on experiences.  

"While it's hard to point to a specific reason, analysts have conjectured that couples think [the holiday] has become too commercial, or is setting too high an expectation on them," Deborah Weinswig, founder and CEO of Coresight Research, said in an email.

And for those who are inclined to be spendy, there's no reason to wait for Feb. 14.

"It could even be that with the advent of other retailer-driven commercial holidays such as Prime Day or Single's Day, [Valentine's Day] has more competition for the consumer's attention and dollar," Weinswig added.

Feb. 14, it should be noted, is also National Organ Donor Day, National Ferris Wheel Day and V-Day's long-overlooked cousin, National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day.

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