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Americans are spending more on Mother’s Day than ever before

Americans are spending more on Mother’s Day than ever before
Julio Barajas moves a load of flowers at the Southern California Flower Market in Los Angeles in October 2016. Mother's Day is the busiest holiday of the year for the floral industry. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Anna Jarvis, who led the push in the early 1900s for a national celebration of Mother’s Day, later decried the holiday because she felt it became too commercialized.

If only Jarvis could see the business of Mother’s Day now.

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Americans are expected to spend a record $25 billion on Mother’s Day this year for flowers, jewelry, greeting cards and the like, according to the National Retail Federation.

(Rahul Mukherjee / Los Angeles Times)

That’s the highest spending in the 16 years that the trade group, together with Prosper Insights & Analytics, has been surveying consumers about their spending plans for the day. It’s also up 8% from the $23.1 billion spent a year ago.

“It’s the most important holiday week we have,” said Scott Yamabe, manager of the Southern California Flower Market, one of the two entities that operate the flower mart in downtown Los Angeles. Sales are “exponentially higher” than most days, he said.

The same holds true for 1-800-Flowers.com, which generates about $71.4 million, or 6% of its annual revenue of $1.19 billion, from Mother’s Day alone.

Mother’s Day also is the most popular holiday of the year to dine out, with about 87 million people going to a restaurant for the occasion, according to the National Restaurant Assn.

Spending on those meals and other “special outings” for mom will total $4.6 billion nationwide, nearly 70% more than a decade ago, the NRF estimates.

(Rahul Mukherjee / Los Angeles Times)

Consumers’ buying habits for the holiday are being shifted by millennials and young people, who increasingly seek “experiential” gifts or consumer electronics for mom rather than flowers and other traditional gifts, said Pamela Danziger, who runs the retail consulting firm Unity Marketing.

Those planning to get mom a spa treatment or other personal service, for instance, have jumped to 24% of the total from 16% a decade ago, and spending on those gifts has nearly doubled to $2 billion, the NRF figures show.

Danziger says stronger millennial spending overall is one reason why total Mother’s Day spending is at a record, and that it partly reflects the relatively high number of millennials still living with their moms.

The real estate firm Zillow Group Inc. said this week that 21.9% of Americans age 23-37 — or more than 1 in 5, and 14 million in total — still live with their mothers or both parents, the highest level in nearly 20 years. That’s partly due to lofty housing prices and rising rents, the firm said.

The figure was much higher in Southern California. In Riverside, 35.4% are living with mom and it’s 32% in the Los Angeles-Long Beach metro area, Zillow said.

“So now the millennials and the [younger] Generation Zs recognize even more how much they owe their mothers and that’s going to be reflected in the [Mother’s Day] spending this year,” Danziger said.

(Rahul Mukherjee / Los Angeles Times)

Hallmark Cards Inc. said it also has seen growing millennial demand for “fun cards from the dog” for “dog moms and pet parents,” which the greeting-card giant gladly supplies as part of its 1,200-card portfolio for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day overall is the third-largest holiday for the greeting-card industry, behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day, with 133 million sold for Mother’s Day, according to the Greeting Card Assn. That will amount to sales of $843 million this year, the NRF estimates.

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Spending on jewelry has more than doubled in the last 10 years, to $5.2 billion from $2.3 billion.

Phone calls also jump on Mother’s Day.

Verizon Communications Inc. said more calls were made on its network on Mother’s Day than any Sunday of the year in 2017. And last year Mother’s Day came in a close second, just below the call volume on the Sunday before Christmas, but still up 11% over a typical Sunday.

Verizon said Mother’s Day is no longer the busiest calling day of the year; the heaviest volume typically occurs during a weekday.

Few retailers and service firms of all stripes miss the chance to promote Mother’s Day specials, whether it’s discounts on botox treatments from Kessler Plastic Surgery in Corona del Mar or 15% off personalized car mats from GGBailey.com in Calhoun, Ga.

Target Corp. and other major retailers have scores of gifts for less than $25, or one could buy a red 1967 Jaguar XKE roadster for $119,500 from Beverly Hills Car Club, which urges shoppers “to give your mother all the attention (and love) she deserves.”

Americans are expected to spend an average $196 each on Mother’s Day, a 9% jump from last year, the NRF said, a gain partly fueled by the strong U.S. economy.

1-800-Flowers.com said the top-selling flowers in order of popularity are roses, lilies, tulips, daisies and carnations. The company will sell 7 million roses alone for Mother’s Day, or 35% of its total flowers sold.

The company said it hires an unspecified number of extra delivery drivers, flower processors, floral designers and phone operators to handle the Mother’s Day surge.

At the Los Angeles flower mart, the week leading to Mother’s Day accounts for 25% to 30% of annual sales for the dozens of vendors there who sell to floral shops, decorators, special-event coordinators and the public, Yamabe said.

“If the economy is strong and the weather is good, most people can pay their [flower mart] rent for the year in that one Mother’s Day week,” he said.

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