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Mother’s Day: Why Brits Spend More on Mum than Dad

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How much Brits lavish on their mums for Mother’s Day could be less this year due to squeezed incomes, but why do they spend less on Father’s Day?

Despite the changing UK economic landscape, how much Brits spend on Mother’s Day has remained relatively unchanged over the past 10 years.

Last year shoppers spent £1.4bn on cards and gifts for their mothers, according to a study by market researchers GlobalData.

Surprisingly, the figure was actually slightly higher in 2008 when, despite being deep in the midst of the credit crunch, British shoppers spent an estimated £1.6bn on their mums, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium.

A ‘challenging’ Mother’s Day 2018 for retailers

But the story in 2018 is likely to be different, say analysts. Tighter consumer spending means that Mother’s Day this year could be tougher for retailers.

“We expect Mother’s Day this year to be more challenging for retailers as shoppers’ real incomes continue to be squeezed,” Eleanor Parr, retail analyst at GlobalData, told Alvexo.

“This is worsened by negative sentiment around the event; according to the GlobalData Mother’s Day 2017 report, 62.1% of consumers think Mother’s Day is too commercial and only 32.0% reported that they enjoy shopping for the occasion.

“Moreover, as discounters continue to expand and improve their Mother’s Day ranges, shoppers will be both more willing and able to trade down purchases for the occasion this year. For example, Aldi is offering a Mother’s Day gift bundle which includes flowers, chocolate and sparkling wine for less than £10.”

Wage squeeze sends shoppers bargain hunting

While spending on food is expected to increase, shoppers will be trying to save money, says Parr. “[We forecast] that spend on food for Mother’s Day will show the biggest increase, as inflation in the food market will drive up average transaction value,” she says.

“We also expect fewer sons and daughters to take their mothers out for a meal to celebrate the event and they will instead opt to cook at home in an attempt to save money, improving volumes for food and drink.”

Mothering Sunday’s origins

In the UK, ‘Mothering Sunday’ falls on Laetare Sunday – the middle of Lent – three weeks before Easter Sunday and five weeks after Valentine’s Day. Unrelated to its American cousin ‘Mother’s Day’, established by campaigner Anna Jarvis, it was originally a day off to allow domestic servants to visit their ‘mother church’ and families, an activity known as ‘going a-mothering’.

The commercialisation of Mother’s Day began in the 1950s, with the proliferation of cards and gifts. However, the timing between Valentine’s Day and Easter gives consumer giants a relatively slim window in which to market their brands.

Despite this obstacle, spending usually tends to be generous, typically equalling that lavished by consumers on Easter.

Sons are the biggest Mother’s Day spenders

On average, sons tend to spend more than daughters on the big day. Research from Mintel in 2015 revealed that men typically spent £41.15 on Mother’s Day gifts compared with the £28.97 typically spent by women – 42% more.

A customer checks his shopping list as he holds a bouquet at New Covent Garden wholesale flower market on the eve of St Valentines Day in London
Brits have spent approximately £260 million on flowers last year according to Coresight Research. Image: REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Just under a quarter (24%) of men’s purchases were impulsive, however, compared to 18% of women’s, which analysts say may explain the additional cost.

It’s also thought that many men have to buy gifts for their partners and mothers, increasing the overall average spend.

Regional differences

As might be expected in the UK, there are also regional differences, with Londoners typically spending more. On average, London’s shoppers paid £87.12 for Mother’s Day gifts in 2015, while those in Yorkshire and Humberside spent £23.41, according to 2015 data from Mintel.

Londoners tended to spend out extra on meals out and other services, while there were also fewer London-based consumers visiting their mothers on Mothering Sunday.

More than two thirds of consumers in the West Midlands purchased at least one Mother’s Day present in 2015, while only 51% of Scots bought a gift.

Father’s Day: How Dads lose out

In comparison, fathers get a rougher deal, with their offspring on average spending an estimated £695.1m on them for Father’s Day in 2017, according to research by GlobalData – half that lavished by consumers on Mother’s Day.

Just under a quarter (24.5%) of respondents told researchers that they believed Father’s Day is less important than Mother’s Day – an increase of 15.6% on data from the previous year.

In fact, just 47% of shoppers spend out on Father’s Day, compared with 60% of them purchasing gifts and cards for Mother’s Day, according to 2015 data from Mintel, a market research provider.

Why Brits spend more on Mum than Dad

In 2017, 40.9% of consumers surveyed by GlobalData said they considered Mother’s Day important, while only 32% of families awarded Father’s Day the same status.

“This trend shows no signs of changing,” says Parr. “One reason for this is that Mother’s Day is considered more of an authentic occasion, as it originates from a UK Christian holiday, whereas Father’s Day is a more recent US import.”

Consumers also find mothers easier to buy for than fathers, says Parr. “[Last year] 27.7% of Mother’s Day shoppers stated they found it hard to find the right thing for their mother compared to 31.3% of Father’s Day shoppers who found it hard to find the right thing for their father.”

The psychology behind the spending

Meanwhile, educational psychologist Geeta Dhir believes demographics may be an important factor.
“It may seem unfair that we typically spend twice as much on Mother’s Day than father’s day, suggesting possibly we think mothers deserve to have more spent on them, and this may be the case, as we acknowledge the sacrifice that many mothers make to bring us up,” she tells Alvexo.

“However, beyond this, it needs to be mentioned that there are now around 2 million single parents in the U.K. and that they make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children.

“In addition, 90% of single parents are women, there is still a gender pay gap and in a number of households, the mother may not be working, so demographics could be an influencing factor re: the Mother’s Day gift expense scenario and giving a more expensive gift to mothers may also be a compensatory gesture.”

Dhir also notes that Dr Lars Perner, a consumer psychologist at the University of Southern California, argues that many consumers simply think our mothers deserve better or bigger presents as, rightly or wrongly, mothers are often considered to be the biggest contributor to the home life.

“However, Prof Kyle Murray, of the Alberta School of Business in Canada, says figures show that every year, more money is being spent on Father’s Day which may reflect a changing and evolving role of the father,” says Dhir.

“An expensive gift does not necessarily mean that it will give more happiness, rather it is whether a person feels like they have been thought of – and understood – when the gift was chosen.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.