The Cheat Sheet

Romance always means business

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on February 20, 2019 Published on February 20, 2019

Waking up late? Or post-Valentine’s Day blues?

Well, the heart of the matter is purely literal today. It was reported that in America alone, arguably the biggest market for love-based products, people spent an estimated $30 billion or more this Valentine’s Day. This include purchases of gifts such as diamonds, cards, clothes and, most importantly, flowers, sales of which experts estimate were around $2 billion this February 14. The real and final estimates are only coming out, still the moral of the story is that love, especially romance, means business.

Hasn’t it always been the case?

To be fair and square, yes. But now, thanks to marketing via social media and other channels, both consumers and companies are able to make optimum use of the day. In fact, the romance economy is a fairly robust category of consumer products across the globe, which studies suggest has historically withstood financial crises and spells of unemployment. Romance blooms, rain or shine.


In fact, the global market for personalised gifts has crossed over $30 billion now and love-based goods form a lion’s share of this market. The love market is growing by leaps and bounds. In the US and the UK, spendings on romantic gifts during the Valentine’s Day shopping spree have already surpassed the monies spent on the Easter season, which has traditionally been one of the most lucrative sales periods in the history of these markets. And, mind you, this is exclusive of the global erotic (adult toys) market which is worth over $50 billion, some parts of which can overlap with the romance economy.


Economists say the never-stop-burning romance in people helped revive economies, business segments and even companies. An interesting example is how romance novels became a big business for the publishing industry. An article in JSTOR Daily last week quotes a paper by Ann M Eike, which appeared in the Journal of Cultural Economics, where Eike reveals that from the late 18th century to the Victorian period, romantic novels enjoyed great success. Interestingly, this was a period where other forms of printed content didn’t make much business.

That’s so romantic, tell me more!

In the 1920s, when women’s empowerment found some real meaning in America and Europe, independent women started spending on romances. Soon, books such as Gone With the Wind and Forever Amber sold record copies, offering a fillip to publishing. That said, by the 1960s when “changing social mores” took the sheen out of pure vanilla romance, the sales went down. But again in the 1990s and early 2000s, romance and erotica made a comeback (remember Fifty Shades of Grey?). EL James, the author of Fifty Shades, enjoys a net worth of over $50 million. Also, in the digital period, the average income for a romance writer has tripled.

Love’s labour’s not lost!

Indeed. Even during World War I and World War II, and even during the Great Depression, sales of ‘romantic’ products did not fall in comparison with other ‘essential’ or ‘luxury’ categories.

People loved loving each other and they meant business. There have been reports that in financial crisis-hit Greece spends on Valentine’s Day did not fall as expected.

That’s the spirit!

In fact, across the globe, the market for ‘love products and gifts’ is a year-all-around opportunity. An estimate from consultancy Unity Marketing pegs the total gifting market at more than $130 billion globally and ‘romance’ continues to play a bigger role in this. Experts say with the new cultural changes, such as the gaining acceptance towards LGBTQ love, polyamorous relationships even in villages and semi-urban centres in the emerging markets, the avenue for love and gifts is only expanding, and businesses are laughing their way to the bank.

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Published on February 20, 2019

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