At the least, a card and a phone call. What she wants is something else again. A 1999 International Mass Retail Association survey found that 79 percent of Americans sent cards to their mothers, making it the most popular means of expressing, well, whatever the card company decided to say (www.imra.org). Mother's Day ranks third among annual card-giving holidays (after Christmas and Valentine's Day), according to the Greeting Card Association (www. greetingcard.org). That's 150 million cards in the mail. And AT&T reports that Mother's Day is the number one holiday for long-distance calling - as in, "Hi, Mom. Did you get my card?" (www.att.com/press/1195/951113.cha.html).
As you might expect, flowers are a big seller on Mother's Day, but that's not the only flora handed out. For some reason, moms are on the receiving end of just about anything that grows (outside of mold, that is). The IMRA reports that more people buy plants, flowers, and outdoor bedding for Mother's Day than for any other holiday except Christmas. In fact, in 1998 the Society of American Florists (www.saf.org) reported more people bought outdoor garden plants for Mother's Day (41 percent) than cut flowers (35 percent). Evidently, kids want their mothers to relive the experience of raising something helpless and needy for a while.
Men are more likely than women to give flowers on Mother's Day, by 59 percent to 46 percent, and are also more likely to splurge on mom. Just in general, judging by figures from the Society of American Florists, cut flowers are clearly seen as a gift item: Whereas 64 percent of all floriculture purchases are intended for the buyer herself, only 31 percent of cut-flowers purchasers are narcissistic enough to keep the buds. (I say "the buyer herself" because 81 percent of the time, it's a woman buying that plant, flower, or bag of fertilizer.) And throughout the year - growing season or not - more people buy outdoor bedding and plants in general (49 percent) than cut flowers (28 percent) or house plants (23 percent) (www.aboutflowers.com/facts.html).
Arranging for mom's bouquet delivery while surfing for stock quotes is not only incredibly lazy but big business as well. Two of the National Retail Federation's top 100 e-retailers (www.1-800-flowers.com and www.ftd.com) are flower dealers, at 59th and 83rd place, respectively. The NRF (www.nrf.com), citing a Forrester Research report, projects a rosy future for online flower retailing. Forrester predicts that online floral sales will account for 10 percent of all flower sales by 2003 - and speaking of online commerce, nothing says "I care" quite like a bouquet of virtual flowers from one of dozens of sites like www.virtualflower.com. If your mom happens to be digital, she's sure to be touched.
Men are more likely to do their less-flowery Mother's Day gift shopping at department stores and specialty shops (meaning they're either generous or guilt-ridden). Women usually head for discount department stores and supermarkets (making them either sensible or downright ungrateful). If you're a son, your mother might well expect to be taken out to a restaurant after opening that Mother's Day card: 47.7 percent of men take mom out for brunch or dinner, but only 29 percent of women make a date with mother. Women are more likely to give some sort of clothing (27 percent) than men (18.6 percent). Given that most men don't even know their own shirt sizes, that's not surprising.
And the amount spent on mom varies as widely as the expression of gratitude. Men spend $86.10, women $60.80, according to the IMRA - but look at the difference between whites and non-whites: $68.20 to $101.20. Non-whites spend more on jewelry, home fashions, and apparel than whites.
But what does mom want?
A 1998 survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers discovered that more moms (24 percent) wanted flowers than any other gift (www.icsc.org). Whatever she ends up with, mom is almost certain to be happy. An informal annual survey by the National Retail Federation found that 96.9 percent of responding mothers said they were satisfied with what they had received the previous year for Mother's Day. Why? They're probably aware that Americans spend nearly twice as much on mothers as on fathers.