Love is in the Details: UAE Consumers Plan Ahead for Valentine’s Day

  • Annual study from Mastercard indicates the majority of gift purchases take place three days before February 14, and highlights a growing preference for online shopping
  • Increasing numbers of consumers are enjoying the safety and convenience of contactless payments technology, with the value of contactless transactions surging by a massive 2,408% since 2017

Consumers in the UAE like to be well organized when it comes to matters of the heart, according to the findings of the Mastercard Love Index study. Created by analyzing credit, debit and prepaid card transactions across three consecutive Valentine’s Day periods (from 11 to 14 February in 2016, 2017 and 2018), the annual report has revealed that the majority of people in the UAE plan ahead when buying gifts for their significant others, with 29% of Valentine’s purchases historically happening on 11 February.

The study also reveals that more consumers than ever are placing their trust in the choice, speed and convenience of online shopping to ensure that their loved ones aren’t left disappointed on the most romantic day of the year. The number of e-commerce transactions for Valentine’s Day gifts continued to show rapid growth, increasing by 236% between 2016 and 2018.

When choosing a gift, UAE consumers still love to say it with flowers. The overall spend on bouquets continued to bloom, growing by 176% in 2018 as compared to 2016, while the number of transactions rose by 164%.

Following the global trend of people choosing experiences over material goods, jewelry transactions decreased slightly over the past two years, while there was a marked increase in the number of transactions for travel and transportation. These grew by 26% in 2018 and accounted for 23% of total spending over the Valentine’s Day period, highlighting a tendency for romantic breakaways to celebrate the occasion.

The use of contactless technology to settle bills continued to gain momentum, with the value of contactless transactions surging by a massive 2,408% since 2017. This is in line with current UAE trends, as switched-on consumers rush to embrace the safety and convenience of digital payments.

Girish Nanda, General Manager, UAE & Oman, Mastercard commented, “Now in its fourth year, the ‘Mastercard Love Index’ highlights key global and regional trends to uncover consumer behavior, offering retailers valuable insights into buying habits in the period leading up to the most romantic day of the year. The results of our study are highly encouraging and highlight the rapid adoption of digital payment solutions among UAE consumers. In an age where contactless payments and same-day delivery ecommerce purchases have become the norm, our solutions are making it easier than ever to impress loved ones with meaningful Valentine’s surprises.”

Summary of consumer spending habits in the Middle East and Africa:

  • Sentimental spending in the MEA region grew by 10% from 2016 to 2018, with a 20% increase in the volume of transactions.
  • Contactless payments saw huge growth, with the share of transactions increasing by 829% since 2017. During the same period, the total value of contactless transactions grew by 1,252%.
  • Spending on flowers increased compared to 2016, with a 94% increase in the number of transactions and a 112% growth in total spend.
  • Similarly, spending on experiences – hotel trips and transportation – grew, with the number of transactions increasing by 20% and 38% respectively between 2016 and 2018.


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