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Moms Will Be This Year’s Holiday Hero

Everyone in retail knows that women are their most important customers with women controlling or influencing upwards of 70% to 80% of all consumer spending, according to the oft-quoted statistic.

But with 126.6 million adult women in the country today  – 96.6 million aged 20-to-64 and 30 million 65 and older –  it’s a massive demographic segment that defies synthesis.

Her age, marital status, ethnicity, income, employment status and household composition all impact what she buys and where she buys it. The later – household composition  – is the most impactful when it comes to the holiday shopping season.

How many people she will be buying gifts for are critical for retailers to understand and plan for, especially if she will be buying gifts for children, the focus of holiday celebrations for some 73.5 million American mothers.

Zulily, the online retail subsidiary of Qurate Retail, is out with a new survey among 2,000 Moms with children under 18 years of age that delves into how her family’s holiday celebrations will differ this year and what it will mean for retailers who need to capture her spending power.

One thing’s for sure, American Moms are going into this holiday season under more stress than ever to make the season bright for her family. She is carrying the weight of getting her family through to the New Year healthy and happy, but unlike in previous years, many established holiday traditions by necessity will go by the wayside. 

While gifts and gift shopping will remain important, that won’t be the centerpiece of holiday festivities. New traditions will take their place and depending upon how it goes, those new traditions might just carry over to the years that follow.  

“Mom is going to be the holiday hero,” shares RoxAnna Sway, executive director at Retail Intel, a market research firm. “They are going to put extra effort into seeing that whatever they plan for the family will be as enjoyable as possible,” she says, adding, “And that everybody stays Covid free.”

Moms will work hard to compensate for the disruptions their kids have experienced this year. Unfortunately, they are not going to get much help from grandparents, extended family, friends, and playmates who previously took some of the pressure off.

Attending parties and hosting large gatherings will be the first to go, according to the Zulily survey, with 40% of Moms surveyed (age range 18 to 55 year; average age 35.7 years) leaving these behind.

For Moms that can’t forgo entertaining, those events will move outdoors, especially in more moderate climate areas, so Sway predicts there will be much demand for outdoor heaters and even patio furniture through the end of December.

Without traditional holiday parties, concerts, even church canceled, and everyone feeling cabin fever after so much forced time at home, Moms will be hard pressed to find things to do to keep their children’s spirits up. One of those things may well be a visit or two to the mall, Sway believes.

“Malls are the one place you can go this year that will be festive with the holiday decorations, the music and even social-distanced events,” she says. “I don’t think they will go there to spend as much time shopping, but it’s one place Moms can take the family a time or two during December to get that holiday spirit. Malls do a good job making you feel festive.”

When spending time at home, Moms will go all out on holiday decorations, with 70% of the Moms surveyed planning more lights and decorations this year. This will spark a run on seasonal decorations, as well as craft kits and supplies, since over half of Moms plan to make their own holiday decorations this year.

“Moms are the emotional rock in the family,” shares Erica Carranza, Ph.D., vice president of consumer psychology at research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey. “It’s her job to make sure that everybody’s feeling good, even when the situation feels bad. There will be a lot of pressure on Moms this year to make the holidays as easy, fun and festive as possible.”

Making sure her children are not disappointed Christmas morning will be a pressure point, but this year, Mom is likely to put quality over quantity when it comes to her children’s gift selections.

“Moms will focus on meaning, to find more meaningful gifts,” Carranza says. “Nobody wants to fill their homes with more stuff that kids aren’t going to pay attention to a week later. She will be looking to find those big items that will provide lasting joy and engage their kids for long periods of time.”

With fewer small trinkets and stocking stuffers being bought this season, Moms will look for bigger, more lasting gifts. The Zulily survey identifies three key gifting trends for children this year:

  • Connecting gifts the whole family can do together, such as puzzles, traditional board games, craft kits, rock painting kits, books and STEM play sets. Eighty-six percent of Moms say it’s important that their families play together.
  • Active gifts that get their kids moving. Some 63% of Moms want their kids to engage in physical activities both indoors and outside and to spend less times looking at screens.
  • Imagination gifts that spark children’s imaginations and encourage free-form play. Toys that encourage creative play are on the list for 55% of Moms.

Moms’ gift spending will be about investing in her families’ happiness, not just filling the stocking or the space under the tree. The Zulily survey finds Moms expect to spend about $230 per child this year.

For some Moms, stretching the family budget wlll be harder than for others, Retail Intel’s Sway reminds us.

“Affluent households will have extra cash saved from less travel and dining this year,” Sway says, but those at the other end of the spectrum don’t have that luxury.

“The LendingTree found grocery spending has gone up almost 20% since the pandemic,” she continues. “Budget-pinched families are praying for more stimulus to help them this season and they also may be facing evictions since the eviction moratorium expires the end of January.”

Some 8.4 million renter households, which include 20.1 million individuals, could face eviction, according to a report prepared for the National Council of State Housing Agencies.

“For those families, it’s hard to think of a ‘Merry Christmas,’” Sway says, as she expects online retailers, like Zulily, and discount and dollar stores to become even more important for Moms working with a tight budget.

But then, it doesn’t necessarily take spending a lot of money to satisfy Moms’ holiday wish list this year, which is to spend more meaningful time together with her family connecting and being active. It does, however, take imagination.

And retailers that get imaginative this holiday season can help Moms meet those needs. “Holidays are so much about the senses, the sights, the smells like evergreens and hot cocoa. There are lots of opportunities for retailers to lean into that,” Sway concludes.

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