What Do Books and Roses Say About Discounting?

There is a Catalan custom of men giving women and girls red roses on St. George’s Day (April 23), while women traditionally give men and boys a book on that day.

My guide mentioned that the books are always sold to the (female) buyer at a 10 percent discount below the regular price; when asked whether the roses are discounted, she said, “No way!” Typically most roses are imported for this peak load time from the Netherlands and are even sold at a premium.

I can understand why this is true for roses — the demand curve is further right, so the market equilibrates on April 23 at a higher price.

But why the book discount? One would think that the book demand is also at a peak. Is it the booksellers’ attempt to woo customers for repeat visits during the year (something that is less likely with infrequently purchased flowers)? Is it altruism toward female buyers (which seems highly unlikely to me)? Tough to answer.


This is in Catalan, right? In Spain?
It's a result of institutionalized earning differences by gender. It is assumed that women CANNOT pay a lot of money for books, and therefoer the polite thing to do is to offer them a discount.

it doesn't make economic sense; it makes cultural sense.

Dan Bentley

Roses decay. Books you have around your house, and could easily give one you have. Booksellers may fear that the tradition could change from "fine time to buy a book" to "let me give a book I already have" which actually could harm their business.


How about because books aren't perishable and demand can be smoothed over the course of the year. This is the same reason that stores have sales on the day after Thanksgiving. These retailers of course know people are buying for Christmas, but they want to get people while they are out.

Also, never underestimate that 'sale' is a not a sale. You're thinking in economic terms, not retail terms.


I think there's a simple explanation. A book may be purchased at any time and then gifted to the man on April 23. Roses are perishable and must be purchased on or around the 23rd.


Books can be purchased at any time of the year - deterioration is minimal. Roses, not so much!

Mark Demeny

Book can sit on a shelf, unsold, forever. Roses can't.

Also, in my experience, men aren't exactly "loyalty shoppers" for roses. We buy them on special occasions (and when we're in trouble) from the first seller we see.

Perhaps the day *after* you'll get roses at 10% (or more) off...

Dave Orr

I think it's because there is internal competition between books, and not between flowers, and that there are a lot more books already there.

If you go to buy a rose and you think it's too expensive... you are out of luck. But there are millions of books at various price points to choose from, and so raising prices may just force people to cheaper books.

Note that there is a used book store, but to my knowledge there's no such thing as a used flower store.


The books are also a loss leader. Many people will buy other items along with the gift, as soon as they get into a bookstore.

Roses, not so much.


Those who mention the perishable nature of roses have it spot on. Plus, have you been to Barcelona lately? Bookstores galore and the folks are well read. Everyone has one lying about that they can gift.


By the way, @ #1 - Probably not too likely. Plus, don't ever go to Catalonia and say you're in Spain. It's like going to Orange County and thinking everyone's liberal just because it's California.


I have seen night clubs that charge men entrance fee while women are let in for free.

Some Random Economist

Jeffrey's mention of the number of book stores in Barcelona is interesting. It could be that women who buy books for this occasion are more willing than normal book buyers to go from store to store looking for a better price. (The durability of books gives them time to do this.) This might reduce rent book sellers otherwise get due to search frictions. Alternatively, a price discrimination story could work if women who buy books only for this holiday value the books less than other book buyers


Books are sold at a 10% discount that day across all Spain because it is the National Book Day (something related to the date that Cervantes and Shakespeare died). Tradition in Catalonia was to give a rose to women symbolizing the heart of Saint George, which is the patron of Catalonia (Sant Jordi). The book as a present came much later in time.


I believe it's actually more demand orientated...at least I can say this from my experience in Barcelona.

While men like to woo women and you see lots of women getting roses from many men, men get less books from women....like usually a woman ends up with 4-5 roses on average while the average for books is maybe 0.5.
Also, as someone rightly said, books can be purchased at any date of the year and still be "fresh", while roses can't and demand on that day is much higher than usual, while demand for books might not be THAT high.

So..it has nothing to do with machoism(while Catalonia is in Spain, Catalans will remind you again and again that it is not Spain, and such stuff as bullfighting, machoism etc. is not so common there. It would also be great to have Xavier Sala-i-Martin give us a bit on the economy of St.Jordi..)

While we're at it...2-0!!! Visca Barça i Visca Catalunya!!!


Men are driven to buy the roses as they view it as part of the mating ritual leading to sex. Men, not understanding what women want from relationships, rely heavily on rituals and formalisms.

Women do not feel the same urgency when buying the book -- it's just another shopping item, unlikely to affect the course of a romance. They know what a man wants from a relationship (at least in the short term), and it certainly isn't a book.

Doug B

Tom @15 is on the right track.

Men feel an obligation to perform the ritual, and are willing to pay a premium to do it.

Women will buy anything if it's on sale!

Carlos L

TSW has it right.

it was not difficult to answer after all


or causality goes the other way and book sellers lowered prices to entice women to give books instead of nothing...


@13 is right.

I will also add that the VAT for books in Spain is 4%, lower than the typical rate (16%)

Also that 5% is the maximum discount the law allows for books sold at shopping centers (maybe to avoid dumping practices against booksellers).


It is more difficult to supply large quantity of fresh flowers in one day, but there are always abundance of unwanted books any given day.