Flowers play an important role in social life being frequently used to mark significant occasions in life, such as holidays, weddings, births, and deaths. Because of their symbolic meanings, usually grounded in their appearance, color, fragrance, growing seasons, or stories, flowers are also used as gifts to convey the givers’ intentions to the receivers [Connolly, 2004; Seaton, 1995; Society of American Florists (SAF), 2012a]. In fact, gift giving today has become the primary reason for fresh flower purchases. In the United States, 67% of fresh flower purchases are for gifts (SAF, 2012b). In Japan, 80% of cut flowers are consumed as gifts or for commercial purposes, while 60% of potted plants are purchased as gifts in Korea (Kim et al., 1999). Even though purchasing flowers as a gift is important, consumer behavior related to this action has rarely been the focus of academic studies. This study is intended to address this deficiency.
When purchasing flowers as gifts, consumers like to buy the flowers in person because they enjoy the sensory pleasure derived from their beauty and fragrance. Consumers also want the floral gifts to have good blooming quality and longevity because they hope to maximize their purchase value and increase the remembrance of their gifts (Yue et al., 2009). Basically, floral gift purchases are highly occasion oriented. Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and birthdays are among the most common occasions for purchasing flowers for gifts. Of these holiday occasions, Valentine’s Day is the most important for the retailing of floral gifts, accounting for 40% (in dollar volume) of the total fresh flower holiday sales in the United States (SAF, 2012c).
Valentine’s Day is a highly commercialized holiday for gift giving worldwide (Clark et al., 1999). On average, every couple in the United States spent about US$68.98 on their romantic partners for Valentine’s Day in 2011 (Grannis, 2011); the average annual sales volume of Valentine’s Day gifts in Taiwan is about US$118.8 million (Eastern Online, 2006), averaging US$9.9 per capita. Even though flowers have been shown to be helpful for facilitating a romantic relationship (Guéguen, 2011, 2012), statistical reports on Valentine’s Day gift sales show that flowers are not the most favorite gift choice on this occasion. For example, a statistical report in the United States in 2005 showed that jewelry, candy, and apparel, rather than flowers, were the top three gift choices for Valentine’s Day (SAF, 2005). Similarly for Taiwan, flowers ranked third, after apparel and chocolate, as the favorite romantic gift purchases for Valentine’s Day (Eastern Online, 2005). Obviously, florists have strong competition on Valentine’s Day.
Gifts are mainly used for social communication. They work as an instrument to convey the giver’s intention, as well as how the giver perceives the recipient and the relationship (Banks, 1979; Belk and Coon, 1993; Joy, 2001; Schwartz, 1967). On the recipient side, accepting gifts means agreeing with the giver’s intention and identification (Belk and Coon, 1993; Schwartz, 1967). Thus, through the action of gift giving, the intentions between the dyad are communicated, and the relationship is initiated or realigned.
Gifts are highly diverse and include both tangible and intangible objects, such as service, time, ideas, or even money (Belk and Coon, 1993; Joy, 2001). However, what is given as a gift is determined by the characteristics of the relationship, such as the development and intimacy level of the relationship (Belk and Coon, 1993; Burgoyne and Routh, 1991; Komter and Vollebergh, 1997). Romantic gift giving tends to follow the same rule. For example, even though gift giving is a common strategy for initiating a romantic relationship at the early stage of dating, men prefer to choose symbolic gifts, instead of expensive ones, to express their feelings for their dating partners (Coon and Belk, 1991). This is in part to avoid being taken advantage of, as well as to maximize the marginal value of dating gifts. In contrast, gifts for intimate partners tend to be more expensive and practical in a marital relationship (Clark et al., 1999; Coon and Belk, 1991).
According to the wheel theory of love (Reiss, 1960, 1976; Reiss and Lee, 1988), there are four stages in the development of a romantic relationship: rapport, self-revelation, mutual dependency, and personality need fulfillment. For each stage, different motivations and affection are fostered and experienced, and the intimacy level varies across these stages. At the beginning, a mutual feeling of rapport is perceived, and the couple feels familiar, comfortable, and relaxed with each other, and has the desire to disclose him/herself more to the other. If the individual discloses him/herself to the one admired, then the relationship moves to the next stage, self-revelation (Reiss, 1960, 1976; Reiss and Lee, 1988). With the increase of sharing experiences and knowing each other’s inner self as a result of this self-disclosure, an interdependent habit system is built between the partners, and the relationship becomes closer and more intimate. This is known as the mutual dependency stage. As the relationship continues, certain inner needs are fulfilled, the two have the emotional feelings of belonging, trust and being encouraged, and they feel they can sacrifice for each other. These four stages proceed from one to the next sequentially, and the process circulates from the first stage to the last repeatedly like the movement of a wheel or clockspring (Borland, 1975), as the romantic relationship continues. Reiss’s wheel theory is one of the pioneer theories in romantic love paving a way for researchers to see how romantic relationships form and progress. This theory has been widely applied by researchers to test their research hypotheses or support their research findings (Haavio-Mannila and Rannik, 1987; Lewis, 1973; Martin and Luke, 1991; Ridley et al., 1982), as well as widely cited by contemporary researchers to define the development of romantic love (Atwood, 1994; Cere, 2000; Hazan and Shaver, 1994; Määttä and Uusiautti, 2012; Paik and Woodley, 2012; Sassler, 2004).
The affection and intimacy level of a romantic relationship will depend on the number of cycles that the “love wheel” has passed through (Borland, 1975; Reiss, 1960, 1976; Reiss and Lee, 1988), even though the development of romantic love is a reversible process (Borland, 1975). The triangular love theory proposed by Sternberg (1986, 1997) defines three affection components for romantic love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. The intimacy component refers to the feelings of closeness in a love relationship that usually generate the experience of warmth for the person in love. The passion component refers to the physical attraction and sexual consummation, or other phenomena related to the intensity or arousal of the inner sexual drive. The commitment component refers to the cognitive decision to stay in the relationship long term. The conceptualization of triangular love theory (Sternberg, 1986, 1997) has been widely adopted by many contemporary researchers to measure interpersonal romantic love (Aloni and Bernieri, 2004; Arias et al., 2009; Barelds and Barelds-Dijkstra, 2007; Bauermeister et al., 2011; Engel et al., 2002; Zeidner and Kaluda, 2008). Some researchers have extended the triangular love scale to measure consumers’ love for brands, products, or firms (Albert and Valette-Florence, 2010; Jin and Jia, 2009; Yim et al., 2008), as well as people’s religious love of God (Beck, 2006).
Generally, the strength and balance of the love affections verify an individual’s experience and behavior in a romantic relationship. However, what kind of love is experienced partly depends on an individual’s romantic attachment style, an inner personality characteristic (Feeney and Noller, 1992; Tucker and Anders, 1999). Those who are anxious about their romantic relationship worry about being betrayed or neglected, and thus constantly monitor their intimate partners. Some others may have an avoidant attitude to love, such that they are afraid to have a promised relationship with others, and thus tend to avoid commitment in the relationship (Feeney and Noller, 1992; Nguyen and Munch, 2011; Tucker and Anders, 1999). Frankly, individuals tend to have different expectations for their romantic relationships. So, even though love has its sweetness, not everyone wishes to say “I love you” or look for commitment in a romantic relationship for various reasons, such as obligation, anxiety, and materialism (Belk and Coon, 1993; Otnes et al., 1994). As gifts may influence relationships, an individual’s satisfaction level toward his/her romantic relationship is very likely to influence his/her gift-giving behavior in the relationship.
As flowers are usually positioned as “expressive” products by florists to encourage consumers to buy flowers as romantic gifts, understanding how the characteristics of a romantic relationship influence consumers’ choice of whether to buy flowers as romantic gifts will help florists in promoting flowers on Valentine’s Day more efficiently. This study was aimed to explore the influence of the characteristics of a romantic relationship, in terms of its development stages, affection components, and satisfaction level on consumers’ decisions of whether to buy their intimate partners a gift of fresh flowers for Valentine’s Day. The study results can benefit the floral industry in developing advertising campaigns and alliances for promoting Valentine’s Day floral gifts more efficiently.
Albert, N. & Valette-Florence, P. 2010 Measuring the love feeling for a brand using interpersonal love items J. Mktg. Dev. Competitiveness 5 1 57 63
Aloni, M. & Bernieri, F.J. 2004 Is love blind? The effects of experience and infatuation on the perception of love J. Nonverbal Behav. 28 287 295
Anderson, T.L. & Emmers-Sommer, T.M. 2006 Predictors of relationship satisfaction in online romantic relationships Commun. Studies 57 153 172
Arias, B., Ovejero, A. & Morentin, R. 2009 Love and emotional well-being in people with intellectual disabilities Span. J. Psychol. 12 204 216
Barelds, D.P.H. & Barelds-Dijkstra, P. 2007 Love at first sight or friends first? Ties among partner personality trait similarity, relationship onset, relationship quality, and love J. Soc. Pers. Relat. 24 479 496
Bauermeister, J.A., Johns, M.M., Pingel, E., Eisenberg, A., Santana, M.L. & Zimmerman, M. 2011 Measuring love: Sexual minority male youth’s ideal romantic characteristics J. LGBT Issues Couns. 5 102 121
Beck, R. 2006 Communion and complaint: Attachment, object-relations, and triangular love perspectives on relationship with God J. Psychol. Theol. 34 43 52
Belch, G. & Belch, M. 2012 Advertising and promotion. 9th ed. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY
Belk, R.W. & Coon, G.S. 1993 Gift giving as agapic love: An alternative to the exchange paradigm based on dating experiences J. Consum. Res. 20 393 417
Burgoyne, C.B. & Routh, D.A. 1991 Constraints on the use of money as a gift at Christmas: The role of status and intimacy J. Econ. Psychol. 12 47 69
Cann, A., Zapata, C.L. & Davis, H.B. 2011 Humor style and relationship satisfaction in dating couples: Perceived versus self-reported humor styles as predictors of satisfaction Humor 24 1 20
Cere, D. 2000 The experts’ story of courtship. Institute for American Values, New York, NY
Clark, C.L., Shaver, P.R. & Abrahams, M.F. 1999 Strategic behaviors in romantic relationship initiation Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bul. 25 709 722
Connolly, S. 2004 The secret language of flowers: Rediscovering traditional meanings. Rizzoli, New York, NY
Dunn, E.W., Huntsinger, J., Lun, J. & Sinclair, S. 2008 The gift of similarity: How good and bad gifts influence relationships Soc. Cogn. 26 469 481
Eastern Online 2001 The most popular Valentine’s Day gifts for the office workers (in Chinese). 18 Mar. 2011. <http://www.isurvey.com.tw/3_product/1_eicp_3.aspx/>
Eastern Online 2005 Analysis on the behavior of Valentine’s Day gift giving (in Chinese). 18 Mar. 2011. <http://www.isurvey.com.tw/>
Eastern Online 2006 Trend analysis of gift market in Taiwan: The change from 2001 to 2006 (in Chinese). 18 Mar. 2011. <http://www.isurvey.com.tw/>
Engel, G., Olson, K.R. & Patrick, C. 2002 The personality of love: Fundamental motives and traits related to components of love Pers. Individ. Dif. 32 839 853
Feeney, J.A. & Noller, P. 1992 Attachment style and romantic love: Relationship dissolution Aust. J. Psychol. 44 69 74
Fisher, H.E., Aron, A. & Brown, L.L. 2006 Romantic love: A mammalian brain system for mate choice Philosophical Trans. Royal Soc. B 361 2173 2186
Gillath, O., Mikulincer, M., Birnbaum, G.E. & Shaver, P.R. 2008 When sex primes love: Subliminal sexual priming motivates relationship goal pursuit Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bul. 34 1057 1069
Graham, J.M. & Christiansen, K. 2009 The reliability of romantic love: A reliability generalization meta-analysis Pers. Relatsh. 16 49 66
Grannis, K. 2011 Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day, according to NRF. 25 Sept. 2011. <http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&sp_id=1075&op=printfriendly/>
Guéguen, N. 2011 “Say it with flowers”: The effect of flowers on mating attractiveness and behavior Soc. Influence 6 105 112
Guéguen, N. 2012 “Say it…near the flower shop”: Further evidence of the effect of flowers on mating J. Soc. Psychol. 152 529 532
Hair, J.F. Jr, Black, W.C., Babin, B.J. & Anderson, R.E. 2010 Multivariate data analysis: A global perspective. 7th ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ
Hazan, C. & Shaver, P.R. 1994 Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationships Psychol. Inq. 5 1 22
Hilbe, J.M. 2009 Logistic regression models. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL
Huang, L. 2005 Floral product behaviors and their influence on consumer floral purchase frequency HortTechnology 15 766 771
Humphreys, T., Wood, L.M. & Parker, J.D.A. 2009 Alexithymia and satisfaction in intimate relationships Pers. Individ. Dif. 46 43 47
Jin, M. & Jia, S. 2009 Developing brand's love to consumer in service: A study of sedan maintenance service brand in China. Proc. Mgt. Serv. Sci. Intl. Conf., Wuhan, China. p. 1–4
Kleinbaum, D.G., Kupper, L.L., Nizam, A. & Muller, K.E. 2008 Applied regression analysis and other multivariable methods. Thomson, Belmont, CA
Komter, A. & Vollebergh, W. 1997 Gift giving and the emotional significance of family and friends J. Marriage Fam. 59 747 757
Lewis, R.A. 1973 A longitudinal test of a developmental framework for premarital dyadic formation J. Marriage Fam. 35 16 25
Minowa, Y. & Gould, S.J. 1999 Love my gift, love me or is it love me, love my gift: A study of the cultural construction of romantic gift giving among Japanese couples Adv. Consum. Res. 26 119 124
Nguyen, H.P. & Munch, J.M. 2011 Romantic gift giving as chore or pleasure: The effects of attachment orientation on gift giving perceptions J. Bus. Res. 64 113 118
Olderbak, S. & Figueredo, A.J. 2009 Predicting romantic relationship satisfaction from life history strategy Pers. Individ. Dif. 46 604 610
Otnes, C., Ruth, J.A. & Milbourne, C.C. 1994 The pleasure and pain of being close: Men’s mixed feelings about participation in Valentine’s Day gift exchange Adv. Consum. Res. 21 159 164
Paik, A. & Woodley, V. 2012 Symbols and investments as signals: Courtship behaviors in adolescent sexual relationships Rationality Soc. 24 3 36
Reiss, I.L. 1976 Family systems in America. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, NY
Reiss, I.L. & Lee, G.R. 1988 Family systems in America. 4th ed. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, NY
Renshaw, K.D., McKnight, P., Caska, C.M. & Blais, R.K. 2011 The utility of the relationship assessment scale in multiple types of relationships J. Soc. Pers. Relat. 28 435 447
Rhoades, G.K., Stanley, S.M. & Markman, H.J. 2010 Should I stay or should I go? Predicting dating relationship stability from four aspects of commitment J. Fam. Psychol. 24 543 550
Ridley, C.A., Jorgensen, S.R., Morgan, A.G. & Avery, A.W. 1982 Relationship enhancement with premarital couples: An assessment of effects on relationship quality Amer. J. Fam. Ther. 10 3 41 48
Rihn, A.L., Yue, C., Behe, B. & Hall, C. 2011 Generations X and Y attitudes toward fresh flowers as gifts: Implications for the floral industry HortScience 46 736 743
Sabatelli, R.M. 1988 Exploring relationship satisfaction: A social exchange perspective on the interdependence between theory, research and practice Fam. Relat. 37 217 222
Schröder-Abé, M. & Schütz, A. 2011 Walking in each other’s shoes: Perspective taking mediates effects of emotional intelligence on relationship quality Eur. J. Pers. 25 155 169
Seaton, B. 1995 The language of flowers: A history. University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
Society of American Florists 2005 Insight floral trends consumer tracking study. 2 Jan. 2011. <http://aboutflowers.com/about-the-flower-industry/consumer-trends.html/>
Society of American Florists 2012a Flower meanings and meanings of flowers. 28 Aug. 2012. <http://www.aboutflowers.com/flower-a-plant-information-and-photos/meanings-of-flowers.html>
Society of American Florists 2012b Consumer trends on buying flowers. 28 Aug. 2012. <http://aboutflowers.com/about-the-flower-industry/consumer-trends.html/>
Society of American Florists 2012c Valentine’s Day floral statistics. 12 Feb. 2012. <http://aboutflowers.com/flower-holidays-occasions-a-parties/flowers-for-valentines/valentines-day-statistics.html/>
Stackert, R.A. & Bursik, K. 2003 Why am I unsatisfied? Adult attachment style, gendered irrational relationship beliefs, and young adult romantic relationship satisfaction Pers. Individ. Dif. 34 1419 1429
Sternberg, R.J. 1997 Construct validation of a triangular love scale Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 27 313 335
Tucker, J.S. & Anders, S.L. 1999 Attachment style, interpersonal perception accuracy, and relationship satisfaction in dating couples Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bul. 25 403 412
van Dulmen, M.H.M. & Goncy, E.A. 2010 Extending the actor-partner interdependence model to include cross-informant data J. Adolesc. 33 869 877
Vaughn, M.J. & Baier, M.E.M. 1999 Reliability and validity of the relationship assessment scale Amer. J. Fam. Ther. 27 137 147
Yim, C.K., Tse, D.K. & Chan, K.W. 2008 Strengthening consumer loyalty through intimacy and passion: Roles of customer-firm affection and customer-staff relationships in services J. Mktg. Res. 45 741 756
Yue, C., Rihn, A., Behe, B. & Hall, C. 2009 Consumer preference for flowers as gifts: Age segments, substitutes, and perceived risk. American Floral Endowment, Alexandria, VA
Zeidner, M. & Kaluda, I. 2008 Romantic love: What’s emotional intelligence (EI) got to do with it? Pers. Individ. Dif. 44 1684 1695