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Michelle Brisebois Maternal Instincts

Marketing for Mother's Day

Written by Michelle Brisebois
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For people who wish to leave a floral tribute on their mother’s gravesite.
Mother’s Day is being observed across a wide range of relationships
There’s no love quite as emotional as the love one has for their mother.  There’s an old Irish proverb that says “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best, but his mother the longest.”  We officially celebrate this “love of all loves” on the second Sunday of May each and every year.

For those of us in the floral industry, Mother’s Day is a major retail event, since flowers are one of the more popular ways consumers choose to honour their mothers.  The question is, are we covering all of the bases?  What about people whose mothers are deceased or those who wish to honour a special aunt or godmother?  When it comes to a day for our mothers, are we being too literal?

Mother’s Day was created in the United States at the turn of the 20th century.  Anna M. Jarvis proposed a national day to recognize all mothers living and dead. In 1907 she began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. She persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, W.Va., to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the second Sunday of May. By the next year, Mother’s Day was also celebrated in her own city of Philadelphia and today, Mother’s Day is celebrated in 46 countries throughout the world.  Hallmark reports that consumers spend, on average, more than $100 (US) on Mother’s Day activities. Flowers and greeting cards are the most popular means of expression, with more than half of consumers polled planning to buy flowers (50.7 per cent) and nearly three-fourths of them (73.6 per cent) purchasing a Mother’s Day card (National Retail Federation).   As baby boomers age, more and more of them no longer have living mothers, yet they still long for a way to recognize Mother’s Day.  Statistics show that many baby boomers will become parentless within this decade. Already, a quarter of 50-year-olds have lost their mothers, and half have lost their fathers.  Traditional family structures have been replaced by stepfamilies and “pseudo maternal” relationships – more than 503,100 stepfamilies exist in Canada, representing 12 per cent of Canadian couples (Statistics Canada 2001). Mother’s Day is being observed across a wide range of relationships. In addition to adult- or child-to-mother/grandmother and husband-to-wife, the celebration now extends to daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers of loved ones, friends and any others who play a mother-like role. This trend reflects the fact that “traditional” is no longer the only spin on Mother’s Day.  There is an opportunity for the floral industry to target the “non traditional” Mother’s Day niche.

Prior to giving flowers to our mothers, it was the son or daughter who wore a bloom.  This tradition could be revived as an add-on sale.  If one’s mother is still living, the traditional flower to wear is a red rose or carnation.  If one’s mother is deceased, a white rose or carnation is the appropriate floral expression.  Jarvis sent over 10,000 white carnations in memory of her mother to their church.  The floral industry should highlight this piece of history in its advertising to reassure consumers who’ve lost a mother that they needn’t dread Mother’s Day but use it to celebrate her spirit.  Create some all-white arrangements and propose to consumers that they be sent to churches, retirement homes or hospitals in memory of their departed moms.  For people who wish to leave a floral tribute on their mother’s gravesite, create some cut flower arrangements that have been trimmed a bit shorter to fit in the cemetery vases.  If you display these flowers in a special section of your shop with a sign indicating these flowers are for “memorial tributes,” customers won’t have to lug a pair of shears to the cemetery to trim the flowers themselves.  It also avoids embarrassment for the customer when you ask them in front of a line of people if they want a card with the flowers – forcing them to announce their mother is deceased.

Expand the list of potential “pseudo-Moms” by promoting a selection of arrangements designed to honour those who aren’t our mothers but are still special to us.  Baby’s breath adorned with a rattle for the “mother to be,” forget-me-nots (representing faithful love and memories) and light pink roses (representing admiration) would be a lovely floral story for a special older sister who tried to fill Mom’s shoes.  Signage and advertising that lists the floral ingredients of each arrangement while detailing the deeper meaning of what each flower represents will add to the magic and meaning for the consumer.

In the end it’s about honouring our biggest fan whether it is a biological mother or a mother by proxy.  After all, there’s truly only one special child in the world and every mother has it.
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