By and  on May 10, 2007

Mother's Day has become an opportunity for apparel retailers to build brand loyalty among daughters, mothers and grandmothers.

Consumers are expected to spend $15.73 billion on gifts, up $1.9 billion from last year, the National Retail Federation said. Almost $1.6 billion will be spent on apparel and accessories and $2.1 billion on jewelry.

Retailers, particularly specialty chains such as Chico's and J. Crew, are pursuing Mother's Day strategies across all channels — stores, catalogues and Web sites. The promotions, lasting through May, include gift guides, trip giveaways, coupon books and special events targeting multiple generations.

Chico's May catalogue and Web site portray family scenes of grandmothers, mothers and daughters outfitted by Chico's. To bring the youngest generation on board, the chain tested a girls' collection, Chicettes by Chico's, during the holiday season and brought it back for spring. It includes cotton T-shirts printed with whimsical images accompanied by inscriptions such as "I Love You Mommy" retailing for $28.

Chico's on May 2 invited customers to submit personal mother/daughter stories and photos; winning entries are to be included in a book to be published in 2008 and sold online. Profits will go to charity.

J. Crew will give every mother tulips in stores on Mother's Day. The retailer's Web site features a gift guide with 25 items that also appear in the catalogue. Gift ideas, intended to focus on mothers' lifestyles, include Egyptian-cotton or cashmere cardigans for working moms, $95 and $158; enamel bangles for moms who brunch, $68, and beach totes and thong sandals for moms who spend weekends at the beach, starting at $24.50 and $14.50, respectively. Themes are repeated in catalogues and gift cards are displayed near registers.

"We've personalized and individualized gifts for moms, and made it easy and seamless to shop across all channels," said Jennifer Foyle, senior vice president, women's merchandising.

Mothers and daughters can register at Talbots through Sunday for a June 2 drawing for five grand prize weekend getaways for mothers/daughters to attend the cooking school of their choice in the U.S. — an $8,000 value. Each winner gets a $1,000 Talbots wardrobe.

"Our target customer loves to cook and spend time with her children, and the cross-generational opportunity is wonderful for Talbots," a spokeswoman said.Simon Properties, owner of the Atlanta luxury malls Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, has distributed a Mother's Day coupon guide on its Web site and in the malls. With a mother/daughter cover photo, the guide features more than 20 participating stores' Mother's Day promotions, from discount coupons to gifts-with-purchases to free hair salon consultations. During May, Simon offers free valet parking for mothers and expectant mothers at both malls, a service that normally costs as much as $7.

Not surprisingly, Mother's Day, or Mothers-to-Be Day, is the number-one national holiday for Mothers Work Inc., based in Philadelphia, parent of the retail divisions Pea in the Pod, Mimi Maternity, Motherhood Maternity and Destination Maternity.

"In sales, May is comparable to December, and exceeds December at Motherhood [the mass retail division]," said Rebecca Matthias, president and creative director.

Stores ramp up visuals and promote gift sets and gift cards, which have a sales jump of more than 20 percent in May. Mothers Work is expanding Destination Maternity, its fastest-growing division. With 12 stores, Destination Maternity stores include spas, a gift department, yoga classes and a financial department where mothers can plan for college educations.

"Mother's Day is bonding day for moms and moms-to-be,'' Matthias said. "We want to make it easy for them.''

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