Mother's Day shoppers this year are still skipping the diamonds, but they're back to buying roses as consumers creak open their wallets.
An economic recovery - while still weak - is giving consumers room to be a little less worried about how much a gift for mom costs and a little more worried about whether she will like it as they celebrate on Sunday.
"People are more confident than they were last year," said Martha Studstill, who owns Uptown on Main gift shop and is seeing an increase of more than 20 percent this year in the average amount spent for Mother's Day gifts.
Consumers nationwide will spend an average of $126.90 on Mother's Day gifts this year, about 2 percent more than last year, according to a National Retail Federation survey.
Like last year, specialty stores - such as jewelry and gift shops - are expected to get the most traffic, according the industry survey. But department stores will get significantly more traffic this year, while discount stores will see about the same number of people as last year.
Consumer confidence still is shaky, especially as South Carolina continues to wrestle with a jobless rate among the nation's worst.
But with some positive economic news, such as a some pickup in hiring and home sales, spending is on the rise.
Robes and shower wraps, custom picture frames and personalized items have been popular so far at Uptown, Studstill said. The average Mother's Day-period sale at her store this year is $30-$45, up from last year's $25-$35.
"Last year, if you said, 'What are you looking to spend,' there was an amount," Studstill said. "This year, I don't know if they have as rigid an idea. People feel like they're pretty secure in their job."
Customers also are spending more on the traditional Mother's Day flowers, said Kathy Storey, owner of Storey's Florist in Lexington. Some customers who opted for a $35 mixed arrangement in the depths of the recession last year are spending $55 for a dozen roses this year, she said.
And people who skipped the flowers altogether last year are coming back. Storey's customer traffic is up 50 percent over last Mother's Day, she said.
Barbara Diamond said customers at her West Columbia scrapbook store are spending about 10 percent more than last Mother's Day on gifts such as handmade cards, scrapbooks and memory boxes.
"They're doing a little bit fancier stuff," said Diamond, owner of The Stamping Place and Scrapbook Station.
Customers are choosing more ornate paper, spending up to $2.60 per sheet versus 50 cents last year, and costlier markers - $6.49 apiece versus $2.99 last year, store manager Judy Onos said.
"They don't even flinch when they buy them," Onos said.
Jewelry also is popular again for Mother's Day, said Bill Hrisko, owner of Unforgettable on Devine Street. He said he is seeing increased sales, but people are still skipping the diamonds.
"The sales are more of the silvers and the (crystals)," Hrisko said, with prices ranging from $15 to $200. That's less expensive than a pair of diamond earrings starting at $250.
He expects business to pick up even more as Mother's Day nears because many men traditionally wait until the last minute.
But women are putting items on "wish lists" for their husbands and buying gifts for their own mothers, he said.
Studstill, of Uptown, said she hopes the increase in Mother's Day spending is a good omen for the rest of the year and a stronger economic recovery.
"Customers just don't seem as tense. They're more confident that the worst is behind us," she said.
BY THE NUMBERS
Average amount consumers nationwide will spend this year on Mother's Day. That's up 2 percent from last year's $123.89.
The amount Mother's Day shoppers nationwide will spend this year on jewelry, compared to $2.3 billion last year.
The percentage of people who will shop at a department store. That's up from 27.2 percent last year. Discount stores will get 30.4 percent of shoppers, about the same as last year. And specialty stores, such as florists and jewelers, will see 33.6 percent, slightly more than last year.