South Africans are splashing out more than ever before over Valentine’s Day – especially on memorable experiences and gifts that can be ordered online.

The latest Mastercard Love Index examines spending habits and trends around Valentine’s Day by analysing Mastercard spending data across the Valentine periods (9 to 15 February in 2011, 2019 and 2020) from over 53 countries around the world.

The amount that South Africans spend over the Valentine’s period has soared by 142% over the last decade, with sentimental shoppers purchasing almost 10-times (up 880%) the amount of gifts and experiences than they were in 2011.

Online shopping has grown steadily and is at an all-time high – with a 683% increase in the number of online transactions in the Valentine’s Day period since 2011. Many will shop online for Valentine’s Day gifts this year, while some will show their love for local, purchasing bouquets and gifts from neighbourhood businesses.

“The Mastercard Love Index has been providing insights into global buying behaviours and spending trends around the most romantic day of the year for nearly a decade. Of course, this year has been unlike any other, but we’re still seeing spending around Valentine’s Day at an all-time high as the world turns to online shops for gifts and at-home experiences,” says Suzanne Morel, country manager at Mastercard South Africa.

“It has undoubtedly been a catalyst for the surge in e-commerce activity, and as a result, we have been able to quickly help more people embrace the digital shift by delivering an online shopping experience that is safe, secure and convenient.”

According to the Index, the trend of gifting ‘experiences’ continues to outpace traditional gifts like jewellery, with hotel bookings up 352% and the amount spent up 114% in 2020 compared to 2011.

Food continues to be one of the most popular way to people’s hearts. Since 2011, there has been a 1 130% increase in the amount of Valentine’s Day transactions in restaurants, with the amount spent increasing by 253% in 2020.

While plumping for traditional gifts like flowers saw a 50% increase in the amount spent since 2011, spending on jewellery only saw an increase of 17% over the same period.

“Our data highlights the move towards the ‘experience economy’ where consumers are choosing to create lasting experiences and happy memories rather than purchasing material gifts. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, we expect that take-aways, home-cooked meals and movie marathons are set to be popular ways couples will bring romantic experiences home this year,” says Morel.