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Valentine's Day opens hearts and wallets: Alberta experts

Don’t expect Valentine's Day spending to decrease too much in 2016.

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Cupid’s arrows may soften hearts — but they open wallets, too.

According to research by Kyle Murray, a professor of marketing at the University of Alberta, much of our shopping on Valentine’s Day is motivated by generosity, something marketers bank on.

“What we know is that people like to give, and there are particular times of year, especially around the holidays, where people like to give gifts — and marketers focus on that,” he said.

Murray says generosity is a particularly strong motivator on Valentine’s Day, with its expectation of romantic gift-giving.

He points to the recent Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl commercial, which featured suited-up female models facing off in a football game that was obviously targeted at men.

The commercial featuring models warned viewers not to 'drop the ball' on Valentine's Day.

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The commercial featuring models warned viewers not to 'drop the ball' on Valentine's Day.

It’s not just the potential of getting something back that’s motivating Valentine's shopping, either, he said.

To test this theory, Murray and some colleagues from the university paired up anonymous study participants and asked them to pick a restaurant that they would like to go to together.

To complicate things, they deliberately paired up people with different food preferences.

What they found was that even though the two people didn't know each other, those who co-operated were happier with their decision — even if the final restaurant they picked wasn’t one they particularly liked.

In other words, people like to be generous, even if they know they won't get anything back.

Despite the flagging economy, Valentine’s Day spending isn’t expected to drop too much, either.

Michael Roberts, an associate professor of business at MacEwan University, said unless someone’s been laid off or directly affected by the economy, the amount they spend isn’t likely to change significantly.

“People don’t look at the economy in their spending, unless its big things like houses,” Roberts said.

He adds that diamonds aside, Valentine’s Day purchases tend to be smaller and more impulsive, something he said often leads to last-minute decisions that will cost you.

“Because it’s impulsive, with a bit of planning, make sure you have your decision made [in advance] and maybe you can do something nice that doesn’t break the bank.”

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