May 8, 2013 at 8:22 AM ET
This Mother’s Day, moms are getting more love than last year – sometimes even from those who aren’t their children.
Ninety-two percent of Americans plan to celebrate Mother’s Day this year, according to a survey conducted by Brand Keys. “This is your mom you’re talking about,” said Brand Keys founder and president Robert Passikoff. “There’s a very big emotional connection.”
That emotional connection is increasingly extending to more than just moms. Consumers are buying gifts also for sisters, daughters, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, daughters and friends.
“Especially in recent years, holidays have really become more sentimental than just purely discretionary celebrations,” said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. “I think, for some families, celebrating all the women in their life makes sense.”
Acknowledging those other moms means spending more. Three surveys estimate that we will spend between $17.1 billion and $20.7 billion on all our mothers this year.
“There are some overarching economic concerns, but you’ve got to take care of mom on Mother’s Day,” said Ben Arnold, an industry analyst at research firm NPD Group. “Consumers are going to find room in the wallet for that.”
Mother’s Day spending seems to have recovered from the hit it took during the recession. The retail federation predicts a jump of 11 percent over last year to $20.7 billion, but it appears a small number of shoppers are driving this increase. Roughly 58 percent of survey respondents said they plan to spend about the same as last year. Only 17 percent plan to spend more.
Brand Keys expects a more modest increase of about 5 percent. Passikoff said this is only about half the increase observed last year, perhaps reflecting dampened optimism about the economy. An IBISWorld survey indicates nearly flat spending with an increase of only 0.2 percent this year, after a 6.5 percent increase last year. At $17.1 million, IBISWorld also had the lowest estimate of the total amount shoppers will spend this year.
Wealthier moms are getting bling. According to the retail federation survey, the average amount shoppers are spending on jewelry cracked $100, but this growth is almost entirely driven by consumers with annual household incomes above $50,000.
The retail federation survey found that the percentage of moms receiving electronic gifts this year will remain relatively low — 14 percent — but is expected to rise. “We’ve seen prices in a lot of categories come down, so it’s more affordable to think about technology,” Arnold said.
Grannis said demographics also play a part. Today’s young adults have grown up with the Internet and cell phones, and are more likely to consider them when gift-giving. The retail federation found that nearly 30 percent of people between 18 and 24 plan to give electronics this Mother’s Day.
The growing number of daughters, sisters and friends receiving gifts may be driving the increase in tablets, smartphones, e-readers and other gadgets. While a middle-aged shopper might not consider a high-tech gadget, it could be a good gift for a sibling or daughter.
This year, more moms are receiving the gift of time – by themselves or with family. All three surveys found that more shoppers plan to give experiences — spa treatments and brunches — instead of stuff. In Brand Keys’ survey, the two categories that showed the biggest increases were meals out and spa services. Both jumped 10 percentage points over last year.
Conversely, IBISWorld found that shoppers gravitate toward more convenient but less personalized presents like flowers and gift cards. These two categories saw the biggest increases, roughly 2 percent and 4 percent respectively.
Even those who aim for a more personalized gift seem to value convenience, however. The retail federation found that 28.5 percent of shoppers say they’re buying online, an increase of roughly 10 percentage points from five years ago.
But as Mom would say: It’s the thought that counts.