Hunting for Mother's Day? Spenders look for thrifty bargains

The StateMay 10, 2012 

Consumers will spend more on Mom this year in an improving economy. But spending habits altered by the worst recession in a lifetime will still have them looking for deals as they prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day Sunday.

Whether it’s flowers and a big family meal, or electronics and personalized clothing items, experts say doing something special for mom this year will again occupy a special place in people’s hearts and in their pocketbooks.

The average person will spend $152.52 on gifts this Mother’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s consumer spending survey taken in April, conducted by BIGinsight. That’s up $12 over last year, continuing an upward trend in spending since 2009, the last time consumer purchasing dropped for the holiday.

Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $18.6 billion nationally, according to the federation.

Midlands’ retailers are fully onboard for a spending surge, experts say, having rolled out everything from discounts and sales promotions to coupons and basement bargains.

“One of the things that we as retailers are predicting is that Mother’s Day will do well, however, with the caveat that people are going to be buying things that are on sale, with coupons and with discounts,” said Marianne Bickle, the director of the Center for Retailing at the University of South Carolina. “Retailers understand that and have prepared for that.”

Some trends in Mother’s Day shopping have changed, though, the recent survey results show. Flowers and jewelry, for instance, have been traditional spending items for Mother’s Day. This year, however, the average amount spent on flowers is only going to be $28, Bickle said, lower than in previous years.

Some people are going to be getting them from their local grocery stores or local Lowe’s or Home Depot, she said, instead of traditional florists. “They’re really being smart about their money,” she said, and retailers are being very creative in terms of offering products.

The average price being spent on jewelry this Mother’s Day is about $100, said Bickle, who predicts stores like Jewelry Warehouse will do particularly well, driven by their gold buying policies, which often offer more in trades than in selling the gold for cash.

One of the biggest shocks consumers may encounter this Mother’s Day is for a greeting card, a “must-have” accessory, she said. The average price for a greeting card has shot up to about $8, she noted.

Still, demand for the holiday is high this year across the board as more people enter the holiday with a job thanks to increased hiring. South Carolina’s unemployment rate in March dipped to 8.9 percent for the first time in more than three years.

Martha Studstill, owner of Uptown Gifts in downtown Columbia, said she already is busy selling Mother’s Day gifts.

“We’ve already had people shopping,” Studstill said. “We do a lot of personalizations, so people know they have to shop a little bit earlier to get those kinds of things going. So they’ve been shopping last week and this week and, we hope they’ll shop a lot more before the weekend.”

Bath robes, shower wraps and fleece blankets – averaging between $35 and $45 and normally bought as graduation gifts – also have been hot choices this year for Mother’s Day, Studstill said.

Uptown also sells a lot of personalized food and wine gift baskets, which Studstill said can be constructed to feature certified South Carolina-specific selections such as biscuits and grits and Adluh products. The food baskets start at $25 and up, and the wine baskets range from $35-$40 and up.

Columbia florist Johnny Tillman said consumers also are rapidly placing orders for floral arrangements for their moms.

“Remember, on Mother’s Day everybody has a mother,” said Tillman, 67, who said his 92-year-old mother is still with him. “Not everybody has a sweetheart, though, like on Valentine’s Day, so Mother’s Day is better.”

Tillman, along with his wife, Judi, own A Florist & More Inc. in Pontiac and Forget Me Not in Columbia, and said flowers are booming as shoppers head into the final shopping days before Sunday. Tillman said he and his employees will work right through Sunday crafting floral arrangements to fit customers’ needs.

“It’s always that way on a holiday,” Tillman said. “We go seven days a week.”

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