40% of renters plan to celebrate at home rather than going out, up from 29% last year

Celebrating Valentine's Day during a pandemic presents a few challenges. But Americans seem determined to enjoy themselves. A majority of the renters we surveyed (73 percent) plan to spend time with friends or a romantic partner on February 14. But exactly how they're celebrating looks very different than it did last year.

Valentine's Day during a pandemic looks and feels different

“There is no question the pandemic has disrupted many aspects of Americans' daily interactions and activities," said National Retail Federation (NRF) President and CEO Matthew Shay in NRF's annual survey released in conjunction with Prosper Insights & Analytics. “However, there remains a special significance around Valentine's Day, and consumers are committed to celebrating friends and loved ones, even if that means having to alter those traditional holiday celebrations."

The pandemic is shaping the Valentine's Day experience in 2021. Americans are reimagining their traditions and creating new ways to honor the people they love. More Americans are celebrating Valentine's Day at home this year. They're also changing their shopping habits and reducing the amount of money they spend.

The NRF reports that 73 percent of consumers feel that celebrating Valentine's Day during a pandemic is important. We conducted our own Apartment Guide Valentine's Day Survey to learn how Americans are converting these feelings into action. The survey results reveal how renters plan to celebrate Valentine's Day during a pandemic.

How Valentine's Day is different this year

Although coronavirus cases had been reported in the U.S. in February 2020, the disease wasn't widespread at the time. So comparing Valentine's Day 2021 with Valentine's Day 2020 provides insight into how pandemic forces have shaped behavior.

Spending Valentine's Day at home has emerged as a 2021 trend, with 40 percent of our respondents saying they'll be celebrating with loved one at home on February 14. That number is up 11 percent from last year. Just 29 percent of respondents stayed home for Valentine's Day in 2020.

The number of respondents going out on Valentine's Day dropped 6 percent from last year. This year, 28 percent of respondents indicated told us they'd be celebrating outside their home. In contrast, 34 percent of respondents went on a Valentine's Day date in 2020.

Spending Valentine's Day with friends is down 4 percent this year too. Just 5 percent of the people surveyed said they'd celebrate the holiday with friends, compared with 9 percent in 2020.

Who is staying in for Valentine's Day

A substantial percentage of renters (40 percent) will stay home with a date or significant other this year. That's an increase of 11 percent since 2020.

The people who are celebrating Valentine's Day at home are often in serious or committed relationships. Married people make up 41 percent of this group of respondents. Another 36 percent are in a relationship and 13 percent are engaged. Only 10 percent of those celebrating at home this year are single or tell us that they're not in a serious relationship.

People of all ages are choosing to celebrate Valentine's Day at home during a pandemic. Of our respondents who said they'll be observing the holiday in their house, apartment, condo or townhome, 41 percent are aged 18-29, 33 percent are aged 30-44 and 19 percent are aged 45-60. Another 7 percent are older than 60.

Renters who are staying home for Valentine's Day are slightly more likely female. Respondents in this category were 57 percent female and 43 percent male. That's slightly higher than our overall survey results, where 54 percent of people surveyed were female and 46 percent were male.

Why people are celebrating at home

Pandemic health and safety concerns are the main reason people are choosing to stay at home for Valentine's Day this year. 59 percent of respondents indicated that this was driving their decision.

For 25 percent of the renters we surveyed, staying home on Valentine's Day is a tradition. It's something these individuals do with their partners every year, whether there's a pandemic or not.

Smaller percentages of renters listed other concerns. Saving money was a priority for 9 percent of respondents. Another 4 percent cited childcare issues.

How people are spending Valentine's Day at home

Just because people are staying at home on Valentine's Day doesn't mean that they're not making an effort to observe the holiday in style. The most popular way to celebrate is with a special dinner or drinks, with 44 percent of respondents selecting this option.

Another 23 percent of renters plan to watch a movie with their loved one on Valentine's Day, while 10 percent plan a game night. Going outside to try hiking, ice skating or other outdoor activities comes in at 6 percent. Pampering or at-home spa treatments will keep an additional 4 percent of respondents busy.

Who is going out this year

For many renters, Valentine's Day is a special occasion that deserves a night out. Of our respondents, 28 percent of renters said they had plans to go out with a date or significant other this year. That's slightly higher than the 24 percent reported by the National Retail Federation – the lowest number in the survey's history.

The pandemic has clearly disrupted the Valentine's Day date. But it hasn't eliminated it entirely. People who choose to spend Valentine's Day in public during a pandemic have a few things in common.

First, they are younger than those staying at home. More than 50 percent of the people who told us they were going on a date in public were between the ages of 18 and 29. In contrast, respondents aged 18-29 only made up 44 percent of our survey takers overall.

People over the age of 60 make up 6 percent of the general survey population. But only 2 percent of individuals who plan to go out in public for Valentine's Day are 60+.

People who choose to go out for Valentine's Day are slightly more likely male. In fact, 52 percent of those planning Valentine's Day dates outside of their home this year are male. Men made up just 46 percent of respondents in our general survey.

Individuals celebrating with a special night out are usually part of a romantic partnership. People in a relationship make up the largest part of this group at 39 percent. Married respondents weren't far behind with 33 percent. Engaged individuals were as likely as single people to choose a night on the town, with both groups clocking in at 14 percent.

How people are spending Valentine's Day outside the house

Most people are planning a date night with a special dinner or drinks, with 51 percent of respondents choosing this option. Going to a movie was a distant second at 15 percent.

Other plans include outdoor activities (11 percent), an out-of-town getaway (9 percent), a trip to a spa or other pampering services (6 percent), or a game night (3 percent). Pandemic-related closures and capacity restrictions influence the availability of indoor activities like spas, movie theaters and restaurants.

Valentine's Day spending trends

Valentine's Day budgets are smaller for many Americans this year. 40 percent of our respondents said that they'd be spending less on the holiday than they did in 2020.

The RFB January report indicates that Valentine's Day spending will decrease by $32 per person in 2021. That's down from a record $196.31 in 2020. Spending on partners has decreased, driven by couples planning fewer evenings out. Valentine's Day spending on colleagues, children's classmates and teachers are all down from 2020. That's probably because more of us are working and learning at home this year.

The pandemic has changed shopping habits

Since they have less money to spend this year, many consumers choose more affordable Valentine's Day gifts. Others are trying immersive experiences and interactive activities for kids.

The pandemic has changed where we shop as well. The NRF reports that more consumers (39 percent) bought their Valentine's Day gifts online than anywhere else this year. Online shopping will remain a force in 2021, with an estimated 2.14 billion worldwide buyers predicted in 2021. That's up from 1.9 billion buyers in 2019.

The NRF offers hope for smaller retailers. Specialty shops and small businesses garnered 17 percent of shopper support in the NRF January report. It's the first time that small businesses have made the list since the NRF added the category in 2015.

Supporting small businesses is a pandemic trend that looks likely to continue into 2021. In November, the Union Bank Small Business Holiday Spending 2020 Survey reported that 74 percent of U.S. consumers felt a responsibility to shop at local businesses in order to keep them going through the pandemic.

A December report from The U.S. Small Business administration stated that American shoppers spent a record-high $19.8 billion at small businesses and local restaurants during Small Business Saturday®. That's up from $19.6 billion in 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we celebrate Valentine's Day in 2021. It's changed the way we shop, reduced our budgets and altered our expectations. But despite the challenges, most American consumers are determined to observe the holiday.

Survey methodology

The information in this article was drawn from an Apartment Guide survey conducted in January 2021. The survey collected 1,821 responses from renters over the age of 18. Of these individuals, 44 percent were between the ages of 18 and 29. Another 31 percent were between the ages of 30 and 44, while 19 percent listed their age as between 45 and 60. An additional 6 percent were over the age of 60.

Respondents were 54 percent female and 46 percent male. Survey results were self-reported, so they are subject to response biases.

Respondents' reported annual incomes ranged from $0-$200,000. The most common income brackets were $25,000-$49,999 (26 percent), $50,000-$74,999 (19 percent) and $10,000-$24,999 (18 percent) annually.

Fair use statement

This survey information and related graphics are available to help interpret economic, holiday and pandemic-related trends. Please properly credit and link to the survey information and graphics as a courtesy to their creators.