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Survey predicts record level of Valentine’s Day spending

By Sandra M. Jones, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — You can’t buy love, but that isn’t stopping Americans from spending plenty on jewelry, flowers, candy and dinner out this Valentine’s Day, according to a report released Wednesday.

U.S. shoppers are expected to spend an average $126 on their sweethearts and loved ones this year, up 8.5 percent from $17.6 billion from the year ago, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual consumer intentions survey. The figure marks the highest level of Valentine’s Day purchasing in the survey’s 10-year history.

“As one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year, it’s encouraging that consumers are still exhibiting the desire to spend on discretionary gift items, a strong indication our economy continues to move in the right direction,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based retail trade group.

In another record for the decade-old survey, 19 percent of shoppers plan to buy jewelry for their significant others, up from 17 percent last year. Total spending on jewelry is expected to reach $4.1 billion, up from $3.5 billion last year, the trade group predicted.

Half of consumers intend to buy candy and 36 percent plan to buy flowers and dinner out.

Meanwhile, in a nod to the rise in mobile shopping, more than half of all tablet owners and 40 percent of smartphone owners expect to use their electronic devices to research products, compare prices and purchase products for the holiday.

The robust outlook for Valentine’s Day follows a better-than-expected holiday shopping season. Holiday retail sales, as measured by the retail trade group, rose 4.1 percent for November and December combined compared to the year-ago period.

The survey, conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGinsight, polled 9,317 consumers from Jan. 4 to Jan. 11. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.

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