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Merchandising Mother’s Day: retail’s best strategies

A key date in the retail calendar, we've looked at the way apparel brands and retailers promote Mother's Day in their newsletters - the products features and discounts.
Merchandising Mother's Day: retail's best strategies | EDITED
  • Lululemon-newsletter-22nd-April-14-2
  • J.Crew-newsletter-29th-April-14
  • Barney's-newsletter-29th-April-14
  • Hermes-newsletter-27th-March-14
  • Forever-21-newsletter-20th-March-2014

Mother’s Day, love or loathe the commerciality of the occasion, is a key date in retail’s calendar. It comes at a useful point in the Spring/Summer season, especially in years where the weather isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do – retailers are able to promote stock which doesn’t speak of summer vacations, sun-drenched festivals or balmy evening weddings. Instead Mother’s Day serves as an opportunity to promote mid-year gifting, to highlight premium priced accessories, and to push a reliably predictable color palette.

This weekend is Mother’s Day for many of the world’s mother’s, including moms in the United States, Canada, Brazil, much of Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and India. The UK and Ireland celebrated Mothering Sunday on March 30th. Here we’ll look at leading campaigns and commercial data around both dates.

Using our Visual Merchandising software, which archives site updates and email campaigns from hundreds of brands and retailers around the globe, we identified the two most popular strategies in communicating the occasion.

1. Gift Edits
The most popular method for promoting Mother’s Day is with newsletter gift edits. This format was deployed by many, including Lululemon, Jaeger, Country Road, Glassons, George at ASDA and Net-a-Porter. This style of email promoted a broad range of product: sleepwear, fragrance, beauty, accessories, homewares, watches, footwear and dresses. The majority took an ‘editors pick’ style layout and many chose a flat blogger-style layout. A special mention goes to J.Crew, who built a story around one of their recent campaigns which featured stylish fashion insiders like J.Crew’s own Jenna Lyons and collaborator Mara Hoffman selecting items for their own mothers. Referencing aspirational personalities to create a broader brand story is a valuable tool, well executed by J.Crew.

It’s worth retailers paying close attention to commercial data when planning their communications. In the last week, (April 30th – May 6th) on the US womenswear market there has been a 4.5% increase in the number of dresses selling out, compared to one month before (March 25th – 1st April). Both footwear and bottoms are down, by 4% and 2% respectively. Using historical data around Mother’s Day, as well as looking at real-time sales data to understand what’s popular and what’s successful, helps retailers build responsive and effective communications.

2. Promotions
The second predominant style of communication retailers took was the chance to promote special offers or discounts. Neiman Marcus promoted a ‘Mother’s Day Event’, offering free gift packaging and a Nest candle for purchases over $250, in their newsletter. Kohl’s have a never-ending stream of discounts, but for Mother’s Day, they’re promoting a $10 off $30 promo code, as well as price cuts on jewelry, watches, dresses, footwear and fragrance. Anthea Crawford in Australia are running a nicely simple offer promoting $50 off knitwear until May 13th under their “Mum’s the word” campaign of May 5th.

Retailers offering discounts and setting promotions can use commercial data to understand areas of opportunity. A color analysis of what products have sold out this week shows an increase in hot pinks, sharper reds and black when compared to the previous week. Pink and lilac, which have been selling well all season, have both taken a softer turn. There has also been an increase in fresh turquoise and aqua shades, which were not so prevalent a week ago. 21.7% of womenswear sell outs on the US market this week have been from the dress category. Pairing this kind of data helps to generate campaigns which capitalize on seasonal and circumstantial interest.

Many retailers create merchandise specifically for Mother’s Day instead of reshuffling their existing assortment into color and product stories which suit. Of the online products identifying themselves as “Mother’s Day” or “For Mom”, at an average price point of $55.77, 42% fit into the beauty category and 21% into accessories.

There’s also a host of retailers who use the occasion to promote self-gifting: after all, so many of the recipients of the newsletters will be mother’s for who the product is aimed at. Included in this is Barney’s whose email on April 29th included options for self, for friends and for mothers – a neat way of covering all bases and encouraging spend. Tory Burch also took this tactic with their “Spoil thy mother (or spoil thyself)” email on April 17th.

An interesting number of fast fashion, youth market retailers promoting the event who wouldn’t normally be associated with a ‘mom shopper’. Take Forever 21 for example: their low-cost, high-trend product is loved by teenagers, yet their email newsletter on March 20th customers towards accessories for Mother’s Day gifting. Retailers may decide it’s worth taking a punt on the occasion to score extra sales – yet the messaging could be off tone. It’s worth noting that other youth market super-communicators Urban Outfitters, ASOS, Topshop and Nasty Gal don’t reference the event in their emails. Meanwhile, luxury brand Hermès continued their engaging and lighthearted style of communication, with a cartoon super-hero promoting Mother’s Day gifting of their ‘super accessories for a super mum’.

There are the retailers who chose to concentrate on other calendar dates rather than Mother’s Day. Club Monaco, Banana Republic and BCBG Max Azria have this week all created Cinco de Mayo campaigns – they’re a nice touch, standing out amongst the many Mother’s Day references!