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Five key sectors of the Valentine's Day industry Add to ...

Valentine’s Day has come a long way since the Roman Feast of Lupercalia, an ancient fertility ritual that had young men catching the attention of prospective mates by whipping them with bloody goat skins. Americans now spend well over $18 billion on chocolates, flowers, lingerie and other love tokens come Feb. 14. We look at five sectors of the industry.

Bling

$72.1 Billion: Value of worldwide retail diamond sales in 2012, according to Bain and Co. Diamonds took a huge hit during the financial crisis and have only just recovered. Sales were up just 2% last year, and producers are hoping things pick up because there’s still plenty of sparkle in the ground: Russia has diamond reserves of more than one billion carats, followed by Zimbabwe (200 million), Canada (195 million) and Congo and Brazil (180 million each). That’s about $21 trillion worth of one-carat Tiffany Setting engagement rings, which sell for $12,100 apiece.

Flowers

3 out of 4: Blooms sold in the U.S. (an industry worth $20 billion) that come from Colombia—the country is second only to the Netherlands in flower production. Canada imported $26 million worth of roses from Colombia in 2012. While bringing home a dozen long-stems for your sweetie is undeniably romantic, the industry is a top user of pesticides and, according to a report from the International Labor Rights Forum, “flower workers [in Colombia] experience higher-than-average rates of premature births, congenital malformations and miscarriages,” and were forced to work 70 to 80 hours a week during the peak season.

Chocolates

2.7 Billion: Value of the Canadian chocolate confection market, according to Euromonitor International. Nestlé Canada has a 16% share of that, with its Coffee Crisp and Kit Kat brands leading in total sales. Globally, the market for the melty stuff is expected to hit almost $100 billion, from $83 billion in 2010, largely thanks to a growing sweet tooth among Asian consumers. Chocolate prices were up $12.25 a kilogram last year—a 45% increase from 2007, which will hurt Swiss consumers, who devour 11.9 kilograms of chocolate per capita each year, compared to 6.4 in Canada and 5.5 in the United States (a large chunk of that around Feb. 14).

Erotica

90 Million: Copies of Fifty Shades of Grey sold worldwide. The 2011 S&M novel is the fastest-selling paperback ever, hitting one million copies in 11 weeks (Da Vinci Code took 36 weeks to get there). Author E.L. James made $95 million in the year up to June, 2013, according to Forbes. Universal and Focus Films paid $5 million for the rights to the first book in the trilogy, and the film debuts on the eve of Valentine’s Day, 2015.

Online Dating

1.8 Million: Number of active members on the Canadian-based dating website Lavalife, with 26,000 new love-seekers joining each week. Canadians are the world’s busiest social networkers, spending more time on online dating sites than users in the U.S., U.K., France or Germany, according to web measurement company comScore. China’s Jiayuan.com is the No. 1 dating site in the world; Canada’s PlentyofFish.com is No. 5. Bad news for hetero men: 61% of Lava life users are male, 39% female. Good luck!

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