KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Turns out love may actually be a universal language.
The world's largest maker of greeting cards, Hallmark Cards Inc., has for the first time analyzed individual cities' data for top-selling valentines, yielding a surprising result.
Researchers at the Kansas City-based company expected the choices of customers to be as different as the cities they call home.
But it turned out V330-5, one of the thousands of options Hallmark offered last Valentine's Day, was the top choice of consumers in New York and Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Miami, and virtually every other city in the country.
''We thought it would be a different card in every city," said spokeswoman Rachel Bolton. ''It was just a surprising thing."
Jessica Ong, product manager for the company's Valentine's card line, had an idealistic suggestion for the sales numbers' meaning: ''It speaks to the fact that people are more alike than they are different."
The National Retail Federation estimates 62 percent of Americans will buy valentines this year. And for every Hallmark card that lands on a store shelf, the company has scoured sales figures, conducted research, and studied trends to make sure it belongs there.
''They aren't just spit out of a machine," said Paul Barker, the vice president of Hallmark's creative unit.
Creating a card for Valentine's Day -- the industry's second most popular holiday, behind Christmas -- can begin up to two years before it finds its way to a loved one's hands.
An 80-person research staff's analysis of Hallmark's 2004 card sales was the initial impetus for this year's line.
That combines with more than 100,000 annual customer interviews, focus groups, and in-store observations to lay the framework for the Hallmark's Valentine's Day line as well as offerings through sister brands.