Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Americans are expected to set a record for Valentine's Day spending this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
U.S. adults celebrating the holiday told the NRF they plan to spend an average of $196.31, a rise of 21 percent from last year's record of $161.96 per person. This year, Americans said they would collectively spend $27.4 billion for Valentine's Day-related items and events.
Experts at the NRF said the strength of the U.S. economy is a contributing factor.
"The unusually large increase in average spending appears to be due to strong consumer finances and a continued trend of consumers buying more gifts, cards, candy and flowers for friends, family, co-workers and pets," the NRF said in its analysis. "The increase in total spending comes as the number of people celebrating Valentine's Day returned to 55 percent, about average for the past decade after a dip to 52 percent last year."
The survey said Americans will spend an average of $101.21 on spouses or significant others, in addition to about $30 on other family members, $14 on friends and children's classmates and teachers, $13 on co-workers, $12 on pets and $10 on others.
Collectively, U.S. shoppers said they expect to spend most, nearly $6 billion, on jewelry, $4.3 billion on an evening out, $3 billion on clothing, $2.4 billion on candy, $2.3 billion on flowers, $2 billion on gift cards and $1.3 billion on greeting cards.
One of the world's oldest known Valentine's Day cards, written in 1818, was recently rediscovered by a man who said he first bought it 20 years ago. Gavin Littaur doesn't recall how much he paid for the card, but said it was "expensive at the time."
"George III of London would have been on the throne when this embossed letter was made by Dobbs of London more than 200 years ago. It's one of the earliest postally used Valentines in existence," he said.
The card, which features a drawing of an arrangement of flowers in the shape of a heart, contains a brief message.
"From him who upon the return of another Valentine's Day looks forward with pleasure to the time when his hopes may be realized; & at the altar of Hymen he shall receive the hand accompanied with the heart of her for whom he feels -- not a wild and romantic love, which abates after a short acquaintance -- but an affection which time increases rather than diminishes," it reads.
The 1926 book The Romance of Greeting Cards said handcrafted Valentine messages were created and sent as early as 1667 but weren't offered commercially for sale or widely produced until the early 19th century in Britain.
In the book Consumer Rites: The Buying and Selling of American Holidays, Leigh Eric Schmidt writes that when colonists began to move to the United States the holiday on Feb. 14 was "often forgotten" and easily neglected" until the 1840s, when Valentine's Day gained retail popularity. It's now one of the most commercially profitable of all U.S. holidays.