3 ways the coronavirus is changing how we think about Mother’s Day

The pandemic has put a spotlight on opportunities to celebrate and connect with loved ones

With cities and communities still under stay-at-home mandates across the country and many schools and offices closed for the foreseeable future, it’s not surprising that COVID-19 would impact Mother’s Day plans this year. However, at first glance, the latest data from NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics annual Mother’s Day survey seems to tell a different story.

The vast majority (71%) of consumers are social distancing and are concerned about the pandemic’s impact on their personal health and financial stability. At the same time, consumers are planning to spend as much, if not more, on Mother’s Day than they have in the past. An optimistic 46 percent still want to plan a traditional special outing, brunch or other activity. What does this actually mean? Are consumers overly hopeful that things are ready to return to normal? Or is Mother’s Day getting a coronavirus-inspired boost? To understand what is driving these seemingly contradictory trends, we took a closer look at what is shaping consumers’ attitudes and behavior right now.

Mother’s Day may be more meaningful this year

For many consumers, the coronavirus has put a spotlight on opportunities to celebrate and show their loved ones they care. In fact, 78 percent say that celebrating Mother’s Day is important to them this year, given the current state of the pandemic. And this sentiment shows up in spending plans as well: On average, consumers say they plan to spend $205 on cards, special meals and other gifts for mom, approximately $8 more than last year. “Families are in an unusual position this year,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “Some consumers are looking to make up for the fact they can’t take mom out by sending her something a little extra special this year.”

Younger consumers under the age of 25 are actually planning on spending $39 more than they did last year. One reason is they are more likely than the average consumer to say they are planning to gift electronics this year, which are often higher-value items. That includes things like Alexa, Google home devices or Facebook Portals that make it easier to connect with mom. Those aged 35-44 who are most likely to be celebrating a spouse this Mother’s Day are also planning to spend significantly more: Many parents are shouldering new burdens when it comes to childcare right now and their partners recognize they need some extra appreciation this year.

At the same time, many households are dealing with real financial hardships, health concerns and other burdens as a result of the pandemic and might not be in a position to splurge on gifts. The vast majority (77%) of those who are spending less on Mother’s Day this year say it is due to the impact of COVID-19. As a result, consumers are looking for new, creative ways to show mom they care. That includes things like treating mom to a “spa day at home” with her favorite nail polish, letting her sleep in and enjoy breakfast in bed, doing a puzzle together or planning a family video call.

All things being equal, consumers want to return to normal

Even in the midst of the current uncertainty, consumers are hopeful their daily lives and routines will return to normal in time for Mother’s Day. While fewer consumers say they are planning traditional outings, 46 percent still want to celebrate mom with a special meal, day out or other activity. These plans may be more aspirational than realistic given the current environment, but they do show that consumers are eager to recreate a sense of normalcy in these times.

In actuality, those special outings might take place as a socially distant walk or standing on mom’s lawn to wave “hello.” Instead of taking mom out for her favorite treat, consumers may opt for a gift card to a local restaurant or a delivery from her favorite bakery. To facilitate these types of gifts, retailers like the Cheesecake Factory are adding a bonus $10 to consumers who purchase a gift card for Mother’s Day and are allowing shoppers to pick up orders to enjoy at home.

Social distancing means thinking outside the bouquet

While consumers are hopeful, they are also realistic about the limitations they are facing right now. Two-thirds (66%) admit they are likely to celebrate virtually this year. Categories like books, electronics and gardening or housewares are at the highest they have been in over a decade as consumers look to gift items mom can easily use while at home.

Whether they are able to gather in person or will connect through phone calls or video chats, consumers want to use Mother’s Day to show their moms, grandmothers and the other maternal figures in their lives that they care. To learn more about consumers’ Mother’s Day plans, visit our Mother's Day Data Center.

ABOUT THE SURVEY: The survey of 8,294 adult consumers was conducted April 1-6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

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