True love pays this February 14. And a passion for spending could leave shoppers consumed by debt rather than romance, says Professor Isabelle Szmigin, an expert in consumer behaviour and marketing, from the University of Birmingham Business School.

She comments: "Love on St. Valentine's Day is a five letter word – spend. A little over a month since the big Christmas present bonanza, consumers are once again asked to dig into their pockets and spend – this time in the name of love.

February 14 was traditionally the day when young people exchanged love messages, poems and simple gifts such as flowers. Now, Valentine's is much more to do with finding the right gift than the message of love. This is no longer a time for just chocolates or flowers, it is another present giving occasion and perfumes, lingerie, jewellery and much more are on the list of those seeking to see whether their loved ones really do care."

Prof. Szmigin says Valentine's Day and shopping are the perfect match for retailers. 

"While retailers will doubtless say that Valentine’s Day gives them a much needed boost after the January slow down in sales and consumers themselves may enjoy going out to shop again even though the memory of the Christmas credit card bill hasn’t faded, one thing is clear Valentine's Day is less about love and more about consumption," she adds.

"Every kind of retailer will find amongst their stock something that could be a Valentine's gift. Importantly as consumers we should check out the prices of these gifts. Flowers, especially red roses and those special heart shaped chocolates are all likely to be more expensive than at any other time of the year. But as we are increasingly pressured to express ourselves through gifts so doubtless many harried lovers will be handing over their credit cards once again to avoid disappointment on February 14."


Media information: Anna Dingley, University of Birmingham Press Officer, Work: 0121 4158134, Mobile: 07769 952763, email:

Academic comment: Prof. Isabelle Szmigin: Work: 0121 414 7357

Home: 01905 620880, Mobile: 07967 373330, email:

Notes to Editor:

Isabelle Szmigin has published in a wide range of academic journals including Psychology and Marketing, The European Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Marketing Management and the Journal of Consumer Marketing. She is on the editorial advisory board of the International Marketing Review and has acted as guest editor on Psychology and Marketing and The Journal of Marketing Practice. Her research interests lie in the area of conceptualising consumer behaviour and also services and relationship marketing. Her book: Understanding the Consumer examines the complexity and unpredictability of consumers in the marketplace of the twenty first century. Isabelle has worked in industry and in the financial services sector and retains many contacts in financial services due to her current research in services and relationship marketing. She is currently visiting Professor to the University of Limerick where she is working with colleagues in the areas of relationship marketing and consumer attitudes to credit.

Isabelle is a full member of the Market Research Society, and a member of the British Psychological Society, the Academy of Marketing, Association for Consumer Research, the Academy of Marketing Science and the Higher Education Academy