How will retailers trade for this year’s Mother’s Day?

Retailers have faced continued challenges over the past year, whether it has been Easter, Black Friday, Christmas or Valentine's Day. Now with Mother's Day around the corner, retailers are drawing plans on how to celebrate the occasion "differently" this year given the government's stay at home advice.

Mother’s Day covid-19 pandemic lockdown online shopping
Mother's Day takes place March 14.

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday. As with other celebratory events over the last year, many people are wondering how they can celebrate the occasion amid ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Although England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have revealed their respective roadmaps out of lockdown – while Wales is expected to reveal theirs soon – lockdowns across the UK will still be in place come Sunday.

Nonetheless, retailers have been quick to capitalise on it by launching campaigns. But this year presents new challenges, whether it’s giving customers the option to unsubscribe from Mother’s Day emails so to avoid distress, or send their mother a letterbox gift.

Although this time last year the UK had still not entered a nationwide lockdown, it was still faced with the challenges of the pandemic. GlobalData recorded a 25.4 per cent drop in Mother’s Day purchases compared with 2019 as economic uncertainties grew.

As retailers have learnt to adapt to the new ways in which customers prefer to shop – whether it’s click-and-collect or online – many have anticipated another decline this Mother’s Day.

Although there may have been speculations that retailers would dismiss Mother’s Day this year to avoid distress for those who cannot visit family under lockdown, many still launched campaigns in an effort to drive sales.

Most recently, The Perfume Shop launched a new ‘Say It…’ campaign to encourage customers to tell their mums, or other mother figures in their lives, how much they mean to them – and have their Mother’s Day messages played in space.

Furthermore, to celebrate Mother’s Day, Marks & Spencer recently announced it had partnered with “superwomen” for a social media campaign which encourages self-love. These women include The Black Curriculum chief executive Lavinya Stennett, former M&S colleague Yvadney Davis, head of HR Karen McCabe and Vicky Scard, and M&S Weston Lock store manager Sammy Schwartz.

“Over 70 per cent of our colleagues are female and throughout March, we’re giving a shout out to the thousands of superwomen that work with and for M&S,” the retailer said.

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Marks & Spencer has launched a “Superwomen” campaign for Mother’s Day

Over in the grocery world, Morrisons is offering customers the opportunity to replicate the experience at home with its new Afternoon Tea Box, which retails for £20. Waitrose is working with Deliveroo to offer on-demand delivery of fresh flowers for Mother’s Day, and Nisa has been helping shoppers plan for the event by showcasing Mother’s Day products in-store and online since February.

“As shoppers are now typically taking fewer trips to the shops with bigger basket-spends, customers will be looking to purchase their Mother’s Day gifts even earlier this year,” Nisa wholesale category controller Donna Powell said.

Meanwhile, Card Factory has “offered an extensive range of Mother’s Day cards and gifts” across its online platforms over the past month, including through its new app.

“This includes our Card Factory store range as well our wide selection of personalised products, which has offered our customers access to a greater variety of products and pricings,” a spokesperson told Retail Gazette.

“It is our mission to help people celebrate life’s special moments, and we are proud of our work in helping our customers celebrate Mother’s Day as the UK remains under lockdown.”

Despite retailers taking part in Mother’s Day this year, new research from grocery retail and hospitality insights firm KAM media found that one in five consumers were choosing to opt out of Mother’s Day emails. Retailers such as Tesco, Ocado and The Body Shop have already acknowledged this and gave customers that option.

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Asda has offered customers the option to opt out of Mother’s Day emails.

Retailers that have continued to send out Mother’s Day emails without the choice of opting out may face losing customers as people choose to permanently unsubscribe from their channel.

Therefore, a temporary form of opt-out where subscribers elect to no longer receive a specific promotion, or for a certain period of time, can prove to be beneficial.

Steve Hubbard, commercial director British TV shopping channel Ideal World, argued that scrapping Mother’s Day promotions altogether this year in an effort to avoid distress would be a “huge mistake”.

“If there’s anything that the past year has taught us, it’s that human connections are important and calendar events like Mother’s Day brings us together,” he said.

“Lockdowns may have restricted face-to-face contact but people have still found ways to stay connected and celebrate those they love. Retailers have a role in helping to guide those who choose to celebrate through gifting.”

Hubbard added that Ideal World responded to trends by proactively boosting its gifts’ offering across its product portfolio, from health and beauty, to jewellery and fragrances.

“We’ve added value at every touch point, making more quality products available at affordable prices and offering multi-buys so people can buy gifts for numerous family members,” he told Retail Gazette.

“While consumers are continuing to explore the benefits of shopping online through both necessity and desire, shipping and delivery is a huge consideration in purchasing decisions.

“To mitigate the risks of any delivery issues, they’re buying for occasions like Mother’s Day further in advance than before; and we’re responding in turn by running promotions earlier.”

Patrick Gore, managing director of online hampers and gifts retailer Hampers, said online retailers should be prepared to “deliver a better experience and product” for their customers given the rapid shift to online shopping.

“Online retailers have had 12 months of practice, and as long as they have listened to their customers and invested in their businesses, both their business and their customers should be the winner,” he said.

Gore added that retailers should offer customers a wider range of products and services on offer, as competition in ecommerce is rife.

With the government’s current advice remaining as “stay at home”, retailers will undoubtedly find it a challenge to trade as normal, particularly in the fashion and beauty sector where customers would traditionally touch and test a product before purchasing.

In the short-term, retailers that sell supplies like toilet paper, face masks and water bottles are having significant sales gains due to the pandemic.

Although the crisis will inevitably impact their revenue in the long-term, missing out on Mother’s Day sales may not result in permanent damage for the retailer. But this does not mean retailers should neglect the occasion. Instead they should participate and bolster their digital offerings in the mean time.

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