Love Mom? Feed the economy.


Alas it’s too late to remind residents of the United Kingdom and Ireland, much of the Middle East and a smattering of Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, to send mum a gift, take her to brunch or at least call her for Mother’s Day. In these countries the holiday has already come and gone according to a timetable in Wikipedia..


But those who live in the United States and more than 50 other countries where this holiday falls on the second Sunday in May (this year, the 13th) still have time to plan some special way to honor the woman who brought them into this world.


And just in case you’re not sure how much honor your mom deserves, a new market research report suggests how much your fellow Americans are expected to spend on average — and how much this means to the U.S. economy.


A press release published by the National Retail Federation says “consumers are expected to spend an average of $139.14 on the holiday (in 2007) as compared to last year’s $122.16.” This, said the Federation, will add $15.73 billion to the nation’s cash register as Americans “shower the women in their lives with jewelry, flowers, clothing, and even trips to the spa.”


According to the release these estimates are based on a survey of “7,859 consumers . . . conducted from April 4-11. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.” The survey was carried out by BIGresearch, a firm that uses “opt-in email” messages to gauge consumer sentiment.


A brief entry on, based on Census Bureau data, adds other factoids to the Mother’s Day mix, such as where the nation’s 23,000 florists get all those perishables for this big flower day. “Colombia is the leading foreign supplier of cut flowers and fresh flower buds to the US.,” we are told, while, “California produces two-thirds of domestic production of cut flowers.”


A holiday with this much economic importance and international appeal must have a rich history and in fact the Wikipedia entry on Mother’s Day tells us that two generations of women from the same family in the Appalachian region of the South. Here is an excerpt:


“When (Ann) Jarvis died, her daughter, named Anna Jarvis, started the crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908, in the church where the elder Ann Jarvis had taught Sunday School. Grafton is the home to the International Mother’s Day Shrine. From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states . . . In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day, as a day for American citizens to show the flag in honor of those mothers whose sons had died in war . . . Nine years after the first official Mother’s Day holiday, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become.”

In honor of the non-commercial intent of the holiday’s founders, I plan to spend as close to nothing as I can this year. In truth I have another reason. I am plumb out of discretionary income and see nothing honorable about putting a debit on my charge card to send mom something she doesn’t really need. I will call her. But that costs nothing since I’ve already prepaid the cell phone minutes and thus can get its-the-thought-that-counts points without the extra expense.


Of course, my non-expenditure may mean that you will have to shell out a little more than the average $139.14. Or it may be that scofflaws like myself may already be factored into the equation. In either event, you hereby have constructive notice that the honor of mother hood and the fortunes of restaurants, florists, jewelers and other retailers depends on what you do in these next two weeks.