South Africa’s ‘love economy’ continues to grow with an impressive upwards trajectory, with Valentine’s Day spend up 11% and the overall number of transactions increasing by 36% over the past three years.

This is according to the Mastercard Love Index, which examines spending habits and trends around Valentine’s Day by analysing credit, debit and prepaid card transactions across the past three Valentine periods (11 – 14 February 2017 – 2019) from over 53 countries around the world.

The number could actually be even more than what the report has recorded as there are people who will transact with cash and that percentage is not captured.

Experiences over gifts

The trend of gifting ‘experiences’ is outpacing traditional gifts like cards and jewellery, with hotel bookings up 22% and total spend 9% since 2017. This takes hotels to the top of the list in terms of South African Valentine’s Day spend, accounting for 38% of total spend in 2019. A substantial $7.2m (R106.6m) was also spent on booking flights and transportation last year, up 3% from 2017.

Food continues to be a safe way to people’s hearts, with spend in restaurants continuing to increase for Valentine’s Day year-on-year. Since 2017, there has been a 39% increase in the amount of Valentine’s Day transactions in restaurants, with overall spend increasing by 23% to reach $11.6m (R171.9m) in 2019.

Most popular gifts

While plumping for traditional gifts like flowers saw a 23% increase since 2017, spending on jewellery decreased by 3% over the same period. South Africans are also less inclined to splash out on the traditional Valentine’s Day card, with spend declining by nearly 2% in 2019, compared to the year before.

“While the way we say I love you might have changed in recent years, showing someone you care on Valentine’s Day is still more popular than ever. The trend of favouring experiences over traditional gifts continues to grow and it’s clear that today’s consumers place more emphasis on making Valentine’s Day an opportunity to create a shared experience,” says Mark Elliott, division president, Mastercard Southern Africa.


Even in the terrible economic state we find ourselves in, South Africans still manage to dig deep into their pockets to show that partners how they appreciate them. I always notice how around this time , companies like Netflorist will look to hire drivers to help them deliver valentine’s package because the need for such gifts can overwhelm their permanent staff.I just wonder how many marriage proposals will come out of this day ? It is certainly something worth checking.

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