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Mother's Day spending may be down

Some moms may not be getting both chocolates and a bouquet for Mother's Day this year as consumers watch their spending.
Mothers Day Economy
Shoppers inspect the floral displays at a Kroger supermarket earlier this week in Cincinnati. Moms may not be getting quite as much this year for Mother's Day as consumers feeling the economic pinch watch their spending. Al Behrman / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Some moms may not be getting both chocolates and a bouquet for Mother's Day this year as consumers watch their spending. Even businesses that traditionally benefit from the holiday, like florists and restaurants, are offering special offers and products.

Analysts don't expect a dramatic drop in Mother's Day spending — which ranks fourth behind the winter holidays, back-to-school buying and Valentine's Day — but think it will be lighter despite the extra cash some consumers have from their tax refunds and stimulus payments.

"I'd be very surprised if there's any big jump in spending, and I'd be surprised if rebates get earmarked for Mother's Day," said Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics LLC. He thinks spending will probably be about flat for Mother's Day.

With middle- and lower-income consumers especially feeling the pinch from rising food and gas prices, mothers may be the ones urging their loved ones to scale back.

Rosalie Pryor of Cincinnati told her 11 children just to get her cards this year instead of flowers and gifts.

"Some of them are working two jobs just to take care of their families," said Pryor. "With everyone living from paycheck to paycheck, I'd rather them use the money to pay bills."

Janet Hoffman, managing partner of the North American retail practice of Accenture, believes spending will be a little lighter than usual. She said she thinks women were the first in the Christmas season to forgo items for themselves and will probably ask families to cut spending for Mother's Day.

"In this case, I think they are going to insist that Mother knows best," Hoffman said.

The National Retail Federation expects people to spend slightly less this year on Mother's Day gifts than last year, and for shoppers to concentrate on one major present rather than many smaller ones.

Instead of buying several gifts, Kevin Ford, 41, of Fort Worth, Texas, and his siblings were replacing a dead tree in their mother's yard and doing some overall yard cleanup.

"It was something she really needed, and we could do the work ourselves," said Ford.

With Mother's Day the third-largest card-sending holiday, greeting card companies aren't worried. Hallmark Cards Inc. just released a line of cards priced at $5.99 that allow senders to record a 10-second message on a computer chip in the cards that also contain pre-recorded music.

"This is another way to personalize their cards, especially if they are cutting back some on gifts," Hallmark spokeswoman Mandy Levings said.

Mother's Day accounts for one-fourth of the floral purchases made for holidays annually, according to the Society of American Florists.

Jim McCann, founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers, said that the company has not raised its prices despite its own costs going up, and was working with its suppliers to find ways to avoid having to do so. The company has not seen consumers trading down as they look to save money, he said.

Bouquet shoppers using were offered discounts and some arrangements that included extras like gifts, chocolates or additional roses. Floral wire service Teleflora also offered discounts and an 'America's Favorite Mom' arrangement accompanied by a medallion for just under $50.

"We designed the bouquet a year ago with a price point that would offer good value and be affordable for a wide range of consumers," Teleflora President Shawn Weidmann said. "And that's especially important now."

Grocery chain Kroger Co. is counting on its candy, cards and prepared meals to attract Mother's Day shoppers, as well as its floral shops offering various specials. Stores in its Cincinnati-Dayton area were offering 24 rose stems this year instead of 12 for $22.99.

Department stores offerings have included free shipping on some purchases from Macy's Inc.'s Web site and a Macy's drawing for a $5,000 gift card and a shopping trip to one of several U.S. cities. Bloomingdale's provided special in-store events and a catalog offer. Home-furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma Inc. had offered rush shipping on some items at standard prices.

Restaurants, among the businesses hurt by tightened consumer spending, are hoping people take Mom out to eat on what is traditionally one of the busiest days of the year.

"Mother's Day is always a big day for us, and we think it will be this year," said Andrew Jordan, senior vice president of marketing at T.G.I. Friday's. "But consumers are seeking value more than ever before."

The casual dining chain is offering moms free dessert when they have an entree, and giving dads a voucher to bring back on Father's Day for free onion rings.

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, thinks restaurants will be OK, but believes overall spending will be down.

"People are going to be counting pennies," Beemer said.