The culprit was Saks Fifth Avenue, which sent two further Valentine’s Day emails before February 1.

It wasn’t alone though. Eight other fashion retailers have also sent me messages aimed at giving me inspiration for romantic gifts.

To find out what’s going on here’s a look at the different email creatives.

And to be clear, I have an inbox set up that just receives newsletters from around 20 US and UK fashion retailers, which is where these are taken from.

For more on this topic, read our posts on how fashion ecommerce brands use email marketing or download our Email Marketing Industry Census.

Saks Fifth Avenue

Saks has been the most eager retailer in terms of email marketing and has also setup its own Valentine’s Day gift guide.

We commonly see this type of gift section setup around Christmas but I hadn’t noticed it as part of a Valentine’s Day promotion. Turns out it’s quite common though.

The email creative is fairly standard, with jewellery and makeup in the ‘gifts for her’ section, and aftershave or a wallet ‘for him’.

The second email had the subject line: ‘Valentine gifts for under $150? Look no further…’

Clearly people in the US go big for Valentine’s Day.

It followed an identical layout to the first email but with different gift ideas.

River Island

River Island made a subtle reference to its own gift guide at the footer to an email promoting its men’s suits.

It’s at the very bottom of a long email and it doesn’t get a mention in the subject line, so it’s easy for people to miss.


In an email headlined ‘Valentine’s Made Easy’ Topshop presented an attractive creative with three clear calls-to-action.

The main promo was actually aimed at getting women to buy new clothes and makeup for Valentine’s Day, with gifts a secondary priority.

Its second email was much the same and actually failed to mention gift ideas.

Instead it included a link to a video about ‘Valentine’s dilemmas’ and outfit suggestions for different dates.

This is a clever approach as the suggestions show a clear understanding of the brand’s target audience. 


Reiss was also focused on getting people to buy clothes for their big date, with different options for ‘relaxed yet refined’ and ‘formal finesse’.

Further down there were also gift options for him and her, plus a competition to win a ‘dream date’.

Reiss is covering all the bases here with clothing inspiration, gift ideas and a competition to increase the likelihood that people will open the email.

Mr Porter

Mr Porter has the cleanest creative on this list, aimed squarely at gifts rather than clothing for oneself.

The subject line is ‘How to ace Valentine’s Day’ and the body includes a single ‘shop now’ CTA.

House of Fraser

Department store House of Fraser tucked its Valentine’s Day CTA at the bottom of an email promoting warm winter clothing.

The image is cluttered with several different products and the CTA is identical to all the others within the email, so it’s quite easy to overlook.

I’d be surprised if this got anything other than a very low CTR as it’s hugely uninspiring.


H&M’s Valentine’s Day sales approach involves telling women they need to stock up on lingerie.

The subject line is, ‘Get the look of love! 25% off underwear online’, and the second section of the email is dedicated to Valentine’s Day.

The simple black and white design means the images really stand out, but the CTAs disappear into the background.


The subject line is: ‘Valentine’s Day – sorted!’

And ASOS has some very specific product suggestions, not just for a date, but for a date at a gig.

Which apparently means dressing up like a Year 10 drama student in black trousers, a black t-shirt and black plimsolls.

In fairness it does also offer up gift suggestions for both him and her.


Department store Macy’s opted for its usual cluttered-mayhem approach to email design.

At the very bottom there’s this promo for Valentine’s gift ideas, with text so small it’s almost impossible to read.

In conclusion…

Personally I found it interesting that many of these retailers focused on clothing inspiration rather than gift ideas, though I suppose they are all fashion brands.

Having worked in restaurants for many years I associate Valentine’s Day with seeing miserable couples sat in total silence before glumly settling a bill that has been hiked up by 20% just because it’s February 14.

But I suppose there are some people who still see Valentine’s Day as a magical occasion and spend a lot of money on new clothes for their big date.

And these retailers are catering perfectly to that audience.