Companies cash in on marketing to Mom
Last Updated May 9, 2007
As the second Sunday in May nears, florists, jewellers and candy shops ready their tills and replenish their stock in anticipation of scrambling shoppers gearing up for Mother's Day gifts. Canadians will spend an average of about $150 for Mother's Day - an increase of about five per cent over last year, according to James Smerdon, senior associate with Colliers Hudema Consulting.
Likewise, Americans this year are planning to spend an average of $139.14 US on gifts including dinners, flowers, clothes and jewelry, according to a survey conducted by BIGresearch. "For marketers, it's really the end of the Christmas drought," said Lindsay Meredith, a marketing professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. "It's one of the first periods where you start to get an increase again in pretty large-scale consumer participation."
Indeed, Canadian companies have historically recorded a noticeable increase in sales. For example, a study in 2005 showed sales surged at floral shops by 108 per cent the week of Mother's Day, as compared to purchases made the week prior, according to credit and debit card transaction processor Moneris.
Similarly, landscaping and horticulture stores saw the number of purchases balloon by 54 per cent, book stores by 43 per cent, jewelry shops by 40 per cent, and candy and confectionary stores by 39 per cent.
No backlash against celebrating Mom
Meredith says marketers have been largely successful in persuading consumers that Mother's Day is a highly charged emotional event, with Mom as the beloved figurehead. "For marketing to be effective, it still has to have some strong foundation on which to build. And if you want to talk about strong foundation, we're talking about that sacred icon of Mom," he said.
"You couldn't do better than that as something that's substantial on which to build a marketing campaign."
Anna Jarvis, shown in this 1928 photo, conceived the idea of a special tribute to mothers. Jarvis began the crusade for a national holiday in 1907 after the second anniversary of her mother's death. In 1914, Congress passed a resolution signed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. (Associated Press)
Smerdon agrees, but notes that it's a delicate balance, with events like Valentine's Day not faring so well as many people question the commoditization of affection and love. However, people are still willing to throw lavish Mother's Day celebrations, he said, and there are no signs of an impending backlash.
"There's no downside to a celebration of Mom on Mother's Day," he said. "Typically, people are OK with the expenditure - they want to spend money."
Smerdon estimates that 20 per cent of Mother's Day spending is used for meals, 15 per cent goes to flowers, 15 per cent on jewelry, 10 per cent on services including spa treatments and outings, and the remaining 40 per cent on a gift.
Father's Day a less generous affair
People tend to be less generous with their fathers, Smerdon said, noting that consumers tend to spend about 60 per cent less for Father's Day.
Marketers have had a more challenging time matching the same sense of emotion for Dads, Meredith explained. "Is it the same strong marketing icon that Mom is? No, not by a long shot. "If you're looking for the emotional hotbutton, it's Mother's Day," he added. "It's a sacrosanct event, if you will, and from the meal standpoint it's something you ignore at your peril."
Mother's Day hasn't always been such a commercial and sentimental spectacle. In fact, it had its origins in 1907 when a West Virginia teacher named Anna Jarvis celebrated the day in memory of mothers who had passed away.
What began as a small church celebration later bloomed into a larger national event. By 1911, many American states and Canadian provinces began celebrating mothers on the second Sunday in May. The day is now celebrated in countries around the globe including Japan, Turkey, Mexico and Belgium. Jarvis, who never had children, maintained until her death in 1948 that she regretted ever creating the holiday.
Meredith said the shift toward consumerism is linked with the notion of recognition and reward typical in Western cultures. He notes that gifts have grown from simple gestures to extravagant tokens of appreciation.
"Is it a $3 box of chocolates? Well, that might have been all right in the '40s or the '50s," he said. "But today it better be the $60 or $80 bouquet, for example, or it better be some jewelry." Like it or not, size matters these days to many people, he added.
"I hate to say it, but when you get into this consumer society … the size of the gift is the measure of the love, so to speak. Regrettably, that is a trap that we fall into with consumption - that's how we express recognition, love, caring. It's one of our tools, I suppose."
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