'Anti-Valentine's Day' Merchandise a Burgeoning Business

For Lori Schwartz, a happy mom with a decade of wedded bliss under her belt, the greeting card featuring a bloodied, ripped out heart was perfect.

"It's Valentine's Day, so here's a card with a heart inside," it read. "I'd tell you whose it is, but the less you know, the better."

"My husband and I never get nice cards for each other. We're not into sentiments," Schwartz said while perusing an aisle of "anti-Valentine's Day" cards at an American Greetings Corp. store. "I expect to get something just as bad, but I may have one upped him this year."

Sensing a growing trend - and more potential customers - American Greetings has started a new line of expressions for lovers who'd rather be big goofs than big flirts. There are cards for singles not struck by Cupid's arrow and those with general disdain for Feb. 14, too. From night club parties to bar-hopping bus tours for singles - and plenty of purposely loveless merchandise to go along with them - the anti-Valentine's Day crowd is proving to be an opportunity for some businesses.

"For everyone, Valentine's Day isn't just about hearts and roses," said Alana Campana, Valentine's Day program manager at Cleveland-based American Greetings. "It's really an unmet market." And potentially huge.

Valentine's Day is the second-biggest holiday behind Christmas for card makers, with 190 million valentines - 85 percent bought by women - being sent each year, excluding classroom exchanges, Campana said.

So marketers saw an opening when the U.S. Census Bureau reported earlier this year that 51 percent, or 61 million, of the nation's women are single, outnumbering married females for the first time.

Ellen Garbarino, a marketing professor at Case Western Reserve University, said it makes sense for businesses to tap into singles because the segment of anti-Valentine's supporters who are against the premise of an invented holiday are a harder sell.

For singles, "a lot of it is, 'I'm going to refuse to sit here and wallow,'" Garbarino said. "This makes it a more marketing-friendly (anti-Valentine's) holiday version."

Popular this season are anti-Valentine's Day events, including a "Love Bites the Hand that Feeds It" cabaret show by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. The Internet abounds with links to anti-Valentine's Day message boards, blogs and products such as "Love Kills Slowly" shot glasses.

Twinsburg High School in northeast Ohio billed its Edgar Allan Poe Festival as an anti-Valentine's Day event, featuring a reading of the murderous "The Tell-Tale Heart." Cleveland Barhopper sold out two of its purple buses for its second annual AVD event.

"We just found that dating services and a lot of singles were attracted to our bus tours and so we just decided to bill this one the anti-Valentine's Day bus tour," said owner Charles Peirce. "It's just a good, mobile party."

The Corner Alley, an upscale bowling alley and nightclub in downtown Cleveland, is throwing a "Love ... Spare Me!" party promising nonromantic music and "love stinks" drink specials.

"Everybody seems to do something for couples and I think people forget that there are a lot of single people out there," said Adam Kleinhenz, general manager of the Corner Alley, where among the AVD activities will be a version of "The Dating Game."

Matt Brick, of Sacramento, Calif., who runs antivday.com and SinglesAwareness.com, said he's not surprised American Greetings and others are trying to cash in on the trend. The self-described happily married man said his sites' "I Think, Therefore I am Single" T-shirts and stickers launched last year are big sellers. The sites encourage people to celebrate Feb. 14 by volunteering or spending it with friends.

"It is not just single people who dislike the holiday. Many people who are married or in a relationship don't like the holiday either," Brick said. "The holiday creates a lot of pressure, both emotionally and financially."