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LIVE24SEVEN // Business E X P LAIN THE MAR K E T – WI TH GUY SHONE


The Multi Billion Pound Cost… of Love


Guy Shone Assesses The Multi Billion Pound Cost… of Love Back in the 90's only the bravest openly admitted to using a 'dating agency'. Fast forward twenty years and it's become the norm, with millions of us now searching for love online.


Outside of extortionate website subscriptions it seems there is also a big difference between the sexes when it comes to investing in the search for romance. On average men are spending much more with these companies than women. British men are spending up to £3,806.56 a year on dating, or £317.21 a month.


Amazingly, there are more than 1,400 relationship finder websites and apps in Britain and the five most popular have more than 10million members between them. Technology has transformed the dating game into a £multi-billion business.


Recent research last month revealed UK singles spent over £30billion in the last 12 months searching for love. As a nation, our dating related expenditure on underwear, exercising, clothes and restaurants is more than any other country in Europe. But when it comes to investing in our love life the biggest change has been that we now seem prepared to see things much more 'commercially'.


It is not just that it has become normal to use a dating app. In 2017, we are also happy to pay for it. And in many cases customers are content to pay a great deal.


One of the most expensive of these sites is searchmate.co.uk, which charges up to £1,595 a year. Other apps such as Tinder, Happn and Bumble are free to use initially but charge for in-app purchases giving access to more potential partners.


Beyond the dating site fees – What do British men spend looking for love? £29 on gifts, £50 on flowers, £30 on beauty treatments such as sun beds £30 on fitness and gym membership and £50 on clothes Single men also spend £1,246.68 a year on meals, entertainment and transport, going on an average of three dates per month and while women spend an average of £450 a year on lingerie, men still spend just £20.80 on 'pants'.


Beyond the dating site fees - What do British women spend looking for love? Women spend £214.11 a month on dating, or £2,569.32 a year and date 24 men on average before finding Mr Right. - £4.96 a month on fake tan, £53.10 on clothes, £16.70 on accessories £25.72 on hairdos and £4 on gifts. The amount that Brits spend, which averages out at £3,187.94 across the sexes, is way ahead of our European neighbours — and leaves other ‘romantic’ countries such as France in the shade.


The cost of a typical date in Britain, split between two people, is £127. That is made up of £10.26 on transport, £69.26 on entertainment, food and drink, £6.41 on gifts, £7.70 on haircuts, £5.13 on cosmetics, £20.52 on clothes and £2.57 on contraceptives! The Spanish are a distant second at £55, then the Dutch on £52. The Italians spend £47 and the French just £46.


Dating businesses have not been shy in snapping up millions of UK customers and many of the biggest players are now making smart moves to consolidate their position. Some of the sites with the most members have also been quick to realise the potential of services that span the virtual world and the real one. A number of strategic deals were signed in 2016 between coffee shop based events firms and major dating sites. The idea being that big brands increasingly want to control as much of your dating experience as possible whether you are searching online, exchanging a smile on a train or chatting in Starbucks.


So, while UK singles continue to pay more and more in online dating fees, there is no sign yet of the sparkling market growth taking a break any time soon. But the business story is just about to be interesting. 1400 players too many for the market to sustain and consolidation seem inevitable. Mergers, Acquisitions and new strategic alliances will be the story of this industry over the next 18 months.


With hundreds of potential partnerships and millions of customers up for grabs - the business side of the dating game is about to get complicated.


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