By Jillian Stanphill, Business Writer
As you walk the aisles in search of the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone, stop and think about the hundreds of thousands of people around the world doing the exact same thing.
They are worrying over what to get, fretting over prices and hoping their sweetheart will like their gift. However, the true meaning of Valentine’s Day can get lost in commercialization.
Globally, many countries follow the U.S.’s westernized practices of Valentine’s Day spending, including Greece, Finland, Estonia, France and Japan.
In fact, a marketing translation mistake started a unique Valentine’s Day tradition in Japan. Morozoff Ltd., a confectionary and cake company headquartered in Kobe, Japan, marketed a Valentine’s Day advertisement in 1936 that featured people giving each other chocolate on Valentine’s Day. In translating the advertisement, the company portrayed women giving chocolate and gifts to men, instead of men giving the items to women.
Fast forward to 2014, and it is considered customary tradition for women to give chocolate to men, specifically all of their co-workers, due to this mistranslation in the original advertisement. Indeed, Japanese society expects women to give these gifts of chocolate to every male friend or co-worker.
In order to gain further holiday business, “White Day” became a tradition March 14. On this day, men give the women who gave them presents a gift in return. Men are supposed to spend two to three times more on the women for White Day.
Businesses earn more than half of Japanese chocolate and confectionary sales during this time of year, proving the marketing teams involved in these holidays have done a wonderful job of inserting not one, but two, previously uncelebrated holidays into the Japanese culture.
Although the United States only has one Valentine’s Day related holiday, every year in the United States, Valentine’s Day themed advertisements encourage people to shell out massive amounts of money in order to impress their significant other. According to the National Retail Federation, Valentine’s spending in the U.S. has increased every year, from $108 a person in 2010 to $131 in 2013.
Men tend to spend about twice as much as women do for the holiday, but surprisingly enough, both single males and females spend more than married ones. Many people don’t even buy gifts just for a romantic partner — people buy gifts for friends, other family members and even their pets.
The rise in Valentine’s Day spending is a great relief to the industries that profit the most from the holiday, such as greeting card companies, florists and jewelers. Thanks to the timelessness of holiday spending, these companies can breathe easier as sales rise after the recession in 2008.
In a 2013 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, 54.7 percent of people said they were planning on purchasing at least one greeting card, 51 percent planned on a candy purchase and 36.6 percent on flowers. Other common categories for gifts are jewelry, clothes, meals, movies and gift cards.
No matter the country, culture or gender, there is always a reason to celebrate and appreciate your loved ones — and companies recognize this.