Valentine’s Day is the quintessential ‘Hallmark Holiday,’ an arbitrary date when we spend billions of dollars on meaningless toys, chocolates and fancy restaurants just to prove we love our partners.  As the holiday nears, we decided to dive into the shipping records tracked by to see what we could learn about the importing activities around this most corporate of holidays. The dataset contains details on almost every shipment imported into the U.S. by ocean along with similar data for 10 countries in Latin America.  

Despite Americans’ fluctuating feelings of both love and hate for the February holiday, statistics show that most people drop $100 or more on that special someone. The Fiscal Times reported that last year, on average, Americans spend about $126 per person to celebrate St. Valentine’s.  So what exactly do people purchase for their significant other? We delved into the contents of the 1.6 million pounds of “Valentine’s” shipments imported within 45 days of the holiday last year to get a better idea. The shipments contained everything from stuffed animals and toys to the classic gifts of jewelry, flowers and chocolate.  The average American eats about 11 pounds of chocolate every year, which would explain the 35.7 million pounds of shipments containing the term ‘chocolate’ that were imported into the U.S. in 2012. It’s safe to say Valentine’s day is ideal for curing that urge to indulge in sweets.  

We can’t ignore the gift of sexy underwear either, one that men and women both appreciate. 74% of shipments containing the term ‘lingerie’ came via China and Hong Kong in the month and a half leading up to the holiday. Procrastinating on our plans for a racy finish to the holiday isn’t a big deal as shipments containing lingerie held steady between the first of the year right up to the holiday in 2012.

Retailers aren’t the only ones who stock up in preparation for the day of love. The food industry experiences their biggest day of the year while restaurant patrons are wining and dining their sweethearts. During the first 14 days of February last year, over 140 shipments containing dessert wines like moscato and lambrusco were imported from Italy. These wine imports increase about 25% in just a matter of weeks, as the number of shipments went from 115 in the last two weeks of January compared to 144 received from 2/1-2/14 last year.  And lets not forget about popular red wines like merlot and cabernet sauvignon. According to’s Latin Database, South America accounted for 50% of the popular wines imported into the U.S. during the month and a half run up to the sweetheart holiday.

Consumers spent 8.5% more last year compared to 2011 according to the National Retail Federation. So what will this year bring? The possibilities for gifts are limitless, no matter how elaborate your display of affection. Survey results polling Americans even showed that about 9 million people make a purchase for their pet.  The bottom line: the U.S. culture has been groomed to shell out the cash on this so-called Hallmark Holiday, and imports of these goods back up the claim.