With Mother’s Day just around the corner and with the government urging Brits to undertake “social distancing” due to the coronavirus pendemic, it’s an even more challenging time for retailers to drive sales.
Last year, Mother’s Day spend dropped by 3.5 per cent despite 83.9 per cent of Brits believing that it was “an important occasion,” according to GlobalData. The decline was thought to have been due to late promotions as “retailers left less time to persuade more shoppers to purchase for the occasion”.
As the Covid-19 crisis deepens in the UK and around the world, questions are raised as to how retailers will perform with Mother’s Day this weekend.
“Consumers have one thing on their mind right now – the coronavirus and the impact that it will have on their families and their lives,” Future Retail Consulting founder Catherine Erdly said.
“Mother’s Day is definitely not at the forefront of their minds.”
Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle told Retail Gazette that given the extent to which coronavirus is dominating our lives, it was inevitable that many “consumers will adopt a much more pragmatic approach to Mother’s Day this year”.
“The pre-planning for Mother’s Day that retailers will have established, means that many windows will already have been set up to promote this day,” she said.
According to Springboard, footfall across the UK between March 15 and March 17 dropped by 17.3 per cent year-on-year, and by 26.7 per cent for high streets alone.
Footfall in February was no better. With the coronavirus outbreak already causing many shoppers to self-isolate and in turn shop online, data from the Retail Traffic Index by Ipsos Retail Performance found that shopper numbers dropped by 23 per cent in February, compared to January.
Springboard’s monthly Footfall Monitor for February also painted a dire picture. Severe and ongoing rain – particularly from Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis – caused footfall to plummet 7.8 per cent last month.
Wehrle said that while footfall has clearly taken a massive hit, the drop from last year between Sunday and Tuesday of 17.3 per cent still meant that consumers were visiting retail destinations.
“This week is absolutely crucial for retailers, as consumers are making last minute purchases in advance of possible self-isolation,” she explained.
“If they can capitalise on this, it will provide a much needed boost to sales.”
“Mother’s Day is definitely not at the forefront of consumers’ minds”
Ipsos Retail Performance retail intelligence director Dr Tim Denison said: “It is ironic that just after Brexit is finally done, and consumer confidence enjoys a boost, another contagion hits the country.”
Stuart Cooke, founder of marketing agency Levity Digital, argued that “Mother’s Day will be as popular as ever this year but the way people search and buy gifts will most likely shift more towards more ecommerce”.
He said sites like Etsy, Notonthehighstreet, and Moonpig are likely to see more visitors and sales than any previous Mother’s Day seasons.
In fact, Moonpig said on Tuesday that it remained “confident” it can meet increased demand for online orders. It is currently working with its delivery partners to “implement social distancing wherever possible” by leaving deliveries on doorsteps, MailOnline reported.
Last year, store front windows at retailers such as Clintons and Oliver Bonas were brimming with decorations for Mother’s Day, but it seems now retailers may need to ditch their attempts to decorate and instead turn to their online channel to attract sales.
“Retailers should consider services such as deliveries to people who cannot make it in to their shops. They will still need to attract what passing trade there is, so updating their windows could bring some welcome cheer,” Erdly said.
Catherine Shuttleworth, chief executive of marketing agency Savvy, said Brits expected to hear further announcements regarding restrictions on social activity in the coming days.
“Retailers are close to breaking point. They’re working hard to attract customers,” she said.
She also predicted that convenience stores would perform well this Mother’s Day, as consumers are more likely to visit their local shops for a last minute purchase rather than travel down to the high street when social distancing measures are in place.
“Retailers that will struggle the most are shops on high streets, like Clintons and Paperchase – who are already struggling,” Shuttleworth explained.
“People have lots of other things to sort out. They’re worried about their jobs.
“Retailers will have to simplify their operations so they can keep supply chains moving.
“It seems unlikely that this year’s Mother’s Day sales will be up on last year’s given the enormous uncertainty that we are currently facing.”
“Retailers should consider delivery services to those who can’t make it into shops”
Erdly added that people will still be looking to buy gifts for Mother’s Day – but existing marketing campaigns will need a rethink if they are going to remain relevant for right now.
“Retailers will need to connect to their customers where they are,” she said.
“Messages that don’t reference the current state of affairs will feel tone-deaf and out of step with customer sentiment.
“Retailers should acknowledge the exceptional times that we are living in, dial back the pushy selling messages and focus instead on doing something positive in a difficult time.”
The latest government advice states that “unnecessary contact” with friends and family should cease and that people should avoid gatherings, pubs and restaurants – effectively putting a halt to any familial get-together for Mother’s Day.
Many people have never seen anything like the impact of the coronavirus on the global retail scene. To add to consumer woes, there has been a raft of temporary store closures in the UK, which means consumers who traditionally purchase gifts from bricks-and-mortar won’t be able to touch and feel products and instead had to rely on online.
In the short-term, retailers that sell supplies like toilet paper, face masks and water bottles are having significant sales gains due to the coronavirus.
However, in the long-term, retailers are concerned that the pandemic will negatively impact their 2020 revenue, and with Mother’s Day around the corner, retailers will need to think fast.