The Valentine’s Day industrial complex isn’t yet up to speed with marriage equality and same-sex parenting.
But this year, Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains, has taken a small step to capture that market by announcing it will begin stocking same-sex Valentines. The effort, if laudable, is minimal. The chain has just two designs for female couples and two for men, out of a total selection of more than 300 cards. They’re low key, featuring small male or female outlines and the words “You Plus Me = ♥.”
Paltry Valentine’s Day card selection is a longstanding problem for same-sex couples. In 2014, Time writer Steve Friess criticized Hallmark, a giant in the card-making industry, for a similar offense. The company did offer same-sex cards, but only the bare minimum of one for each gender. Most gay couples, he wrote, just had to make do with “mutually enamored, anthropomorphic animals.”
Mainstream retailers have since warmed to the notion of selling a broader range of same-sex cards for other occasions like weddings. Specialist card shops like Scribbler in the UK, as well as online sellers like Moonpig, are making up the difference. Both offer a cheerfully bawdy selection of same-sex cards.
Sainsbury’s says it’s supporting LGBTQ rights, but as its press release suggests, the move also makes business sense. The total UK spend on Valentine’s Day cards is £40.2 million ($50.2 million), making it the most lucrative annual occasion for British card-sellers.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Sainsbury’s had only released two same-sex card designs in total.