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Not feeling it on Valentine’s Day, Tampa Bay? A company lets you ditch the ads

Online marketplace Etsy allows customers to choose not to get bombarded with come-ons for holidays that are hard on them. Some retail experts like it.
For some people, those traditional Valentine's Day roses are a sweet offering. For others, it's: Enough already.
For some people, those traditional Valentine's Day roses are a sweet offering. For others, it's: Enough already.
Published Feb. 2

This may be news to retailers who started stacking the shelves with hearts, bears and chocolate boxes before we had the Christmas tree out to the curb, but not everyone loves Valentine’s Day.

For a lot of people, it’s big bouquets of fun. But in the non-Hallmark world, there can be loss, loneliness, disappointment and other personal reasons people don’t want to be bombarded with ads about couples in love.

Apparently Etsy, the popular global online marketplace, gets this.

Last year, Etsy customers got a message acknowledging that Mother’s Day can be difficult for some. People may have lost parents or have tough family relationships. So the company offered customers the choice of not getting those pre-holiday emails from them. Some other retailers — bedding and bath company Parachute and British florist Bloom & Wild — have done the same.

Right now, Etsy is offering its usual array of Valentine gifts — messages in bottles, origami hearts, squirrel-imprinted “nuts about you” cards. But they’ve also added Valentine’s Day to Mother’s and Father’s Days as an advertising opt-out for their customers.

“We understand that some holidays can be difficult for many people, especially within the context of a global pandemic,” an Etsy spokesperson said via email. “While this year might be filled with joyous reunions for some, for those who are potentially grieving a loved one, struggling with mental health, or have strained family relations, seeing constant reminders can make it even more difficult.”

Feedback from customers has been “very positive,” she said.

Lately we consumers have shown we’re ready to buy, so it’s no surprise the National Retail Federation predicts $23.9 billion in spending for this Valentine’s Day, the second-highest on record. The top five gifts we’re buying: candy (56 percent), cards (40 percent), flowers (37 percent), evenings out (31 percent) and jewelry (22 percent).

Not everyone loves hearts and candy for Valentine's Day.
Not everyone loves hearts and candy for Valentine's Day. [ TIMES ]

So is “permission marketing,” as it’s been called, a good idea, or just a risk for lost revenue?

Some scholars see little downside.

“Consumers not wanting to see ‘happy couples’ or other reminders of lost love on Valentine’s Day would probably appreciate the gesture,” said T. Bettina Cornwell, head of the marketing department at the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business. And if consumers find the gesture genuine, there’s a chance they’ll use the company on other occasions, she said.

In the current economy, the real goal is about making and keeping customers rather than just making money, said Tim Graeff, marketing professor at Middle Tennessee State University. The opt-out “might go a long way in increasing the loyalty of their customers,” he said.

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“This is a great practice,” Ayelet Fishbach, professor of behavioral science and marketing at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. “If I feel that a company knows me and can support my goals, I like them more.”

Now there’s a Hallmark version of marketing for you.

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