Valentine’s Day and the Logistics of Love

Stephen DeAngelis

February 14, 2020

Valentine’s Day is named after a Christian saint, who, according to the BBC, was willing to give up his life for the sake of love. They write, “The popular belief about St. Valentine is that he was a priest from Rome in the third century AD. Emperor Claudius II had banned marriage because he thought married men were bad soldiers. Valentine felt this was unfair, so he broke the rules and arranged marriages in secret. When Claudius found out, Valentine was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. There, he fell in love with the jailer’s daughter and when he was taken to be killed on 14 February he sent her a love letter signed ‘from your Valentine’.”[1] Nowadays, while love notes or cards are still exchanged, romantic gifts of candy and flowers are in vogue. Juliette Bruneel, a DSCP product documentation coordinator at QAD DynaSys, observes, “Whether you’re in a relationship or single, you can’t ignore the fuss made about Valentine’s day and the business it generates each year. Some consider the event as an inescapable chore, some see in Valentine’s day a great opportunity to demonstrate their feelings to the beloved one.”[2] The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimated a record-breaking $20.7 billion was spent last year by U.S. Valentine’s Day gift-givers. Getting Valentine’s Day-related items into stores require an epic supply chain effort.

Valentine’s gifts and marketing are getting more personal

Valentine’s Day has always been about personal feelings and romance. Into today’s era of personalization, however, some gifts, and the marketing efforts promoting them, are able to be personalized in ways previously difficult to achieve. Howard Roddie (@HowardRoddie), a Professional Services consultant at QAD DynSys, writes,”A growing trend is personalization — a message on chocolate slab, an engraving on just about anything, personalized cards and so on. High margin and low risk. The planning is passed to the lovestruck and the producer can make to order. There’s no waste as common components will be used for other products and the receiver will appreciate the special effort. Now … you just need to think of a message.”[3]

On the personalized marketing side of Valentine’s Day, Jonathan Crowl (@jonathancrowl), marketing expert, writes, “With the financial stakes so high, brands typically spend months developing Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns aimed at the core holiday demographic: couples in love. … If Valentine’s Day, much like love, is meant for everyone, then the related marketing campaigns promoting this spending event can be targeted to virtually any U.S. consumer.”[4] Bruneel notes personalization of gifts means givers are thinking more creatively. “Apart from engraved necklaces or customized pillows,” she writes, “customers are searching experiences which will create unforgettable memories: food experiences, theater events, special hotel packages with spa and champagne, helicopter rides, or sports adventure!” Statista provided the following chart about gift sales last year.

Infographic: The Most Popular Valentine's Day Gifts In The U.S. | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

The chart confirms journalist Richard Schiffman’s assertion, “Valentine’s Day is known for two things: romantic love and chocolate. Romance is famously fickle — it comes and goes. But our love affair with chocolate never seems to wane.”[5]

The Valentine’s Day supply chain

Roddie notes, “Supply chain planning may seem oh so unromantic — what with all the talk of S&OP, and IBP and all of our websites full of pictures of warehouses. All the things we talk about and do are focused on getting the right things to the right people at the right time. Bringing joy to the hearts of millions when they unwrap that special gift come February 14th is our reward. It’s also quite a challenge.” Challenge indeed. Last year UPS geared up its global logistics-of-love network to deliver an estimated 89 million flowers for Valentine’s Day. Francisco Ricaurte reports, “To ensure these precious flowers arrive at peak freshness, UPS shepherds the shipments from colorful growing fields in Latin America through the Miami International Airport — where UPS is one of the largest air cargo carriers — to final recipients in less than two days. UPS added 50 extra flights during this period to handle roughly 517,000 bloom-filled boxes.”[6]

Deborah Abrams Kaplan (@KaplanInk) reports providers of Valentine’s chocolate candies have it a bit easier than providers of flowers. She writes, “Chocolate is a different story. It doesn’t last forever, but the shelf life is longer [than flowers], and the raw ingredients like cacao can be shipped far in advance of the holiday.”[7] She goes on to note, “Chocolate producers plan their cacao procurement at least a year ahead, accounting for all sales.” Valentine’s Day chocolate sales rank third behind Christmas and Easter, even though, Kaplan reports, “An estimated 80% of Americans give candy and chocolate to others on Valentine’s Day.” Schiffman adds, “Americans spend more today on chocolate products than the gross national product of some of the countries where cacao is grown.”

Like floral and chocolate supply chains, the greeting card supply chain from tree to store has many steps. Current concerns about deforestation and climate change has some experts wondering about the value of exchanging cards. Beatrix Richards, head of corporate stewardship for timber and seafood at WWF, asserts, “The true cost of our Valentine’s cards could be far greater than the price on the wrapping. They may be contributing to the further loss of some of the most valuable forests in the world. Companies that rely on forests for their raw materials should scrutinize their supply chains and reassure customers that they are buying cards made from recycled or sustainable materials.”[8] Such concerns led James Murray () to write, “All lovers know there is a lot to remember in the run up to Valentine’s Day. Have you got a card, have you got a gift, have you booked a suitably over-priced restaurant? Now another crucial question must be added to the Valentine’s checklist for the love-struck and their retailers alike — have you ensured the supply chain for your gift is environmentally sustainable?”[9]

Concluding thoughts

As Schiffman noted, romance can be fickle. In some cases, romance may not even have been experienced. Bruneel notes, “Among these people on the fringes of the romantic flow, many plan to indulge in some self-care, to go out with friends, or even to show their rebellion by purchasing an ‘anti’ Valentine’s Day gift. For these ones too, retailers have anticipated the trend and extended the range of treats.” Whether you celebrate romance or rue the day, there are activities and items suited for the occasion — and the supply chain played a part in making them available.

Footnotes
[1] Staff, “What is Valentine’s Day and how did it start?” BBC, 10 February 2017.
[2] Juliette Bruneel, “Valentine’s Day: Love Does not Escape Supply Chain Trends,” QAD DynaSys Blog, 14 February 2019.
[3] Howard Roddie, “Take These (Supply) Chains From my Heart – Planning for Valentine’s day.QAD DynaSys Blog, 12 February 2019.
[4] Jonathan Crowl, “How Brands Are Spreading the Love With Valentine’s Day Marketing Personalized for Every Consumer,” Skyword, 14 February 2019.
[5] Richard Schiffman, “Is Chocolate a Healthy Choice for Valentine’s Day? That Depends on Which Kind,” The Wall Street Journal, 13 February 2018.
[6] Francisco Ricaurte, “Helping Love Bloom,” Longitudes, 13 February 2019.
[7] Deborah Abrams Kaplan, “Valentine’s Day: When cacao isn’t just another commodity,” Supply Chain Dive, 14 February 2019.
[8] Will Green, “Valentine’s cards could be destroying rainforests, says WWF,” Supply Management, 12 February 2015.
[9] James Murray, “Where’s the Valentine’s Day love for sustainability?,” GreenBiz, 13 February 2015.