Shoppers who may not want to receive adverts for Mother’s Day cards, flowers and presents in the run-up to next Sunday are being sent emails asking if they want to opt out of the messages.
Two years ago the Tory MP Matt Warman called for advertisers to adopt op-out policies, telling parliament of his own “dread” at receiving marketing messages after the death of his parents.
At the time, the online florist Bloom & Wild was offering its customers the chance to opt-out of emails, and Warman suggested that others could be asked to do similar as part of a voluntary code.
Many big companies are offering this for the first time this year, with some citing the pandemic as a reason for introducing the opt-out.
But while some customers have welcomed the choice, others have suggested that the messages could be more upsetting than the emails they are designed to stop.
The online retailer Very.co.uk emailed customers in February asking them to click on a link if they did not want to receive Mother’s Day reminders.
Carly O’Brien, the chief marketing officer at The Very Group, the operator of Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com, said: “We’ve done it because we know it can be a difficult day for lots of people. Given the events of the last year, it’s even more important that we’re sensitive to our customers’ feelings.”
Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have also introduced opt-outs this year. A spokesperson for Waitrose said: “While Mother’s Day is a celebratory time for many of our customers, we know it can be painful for others, particularly when so many have lost loved ones during the pandemic.”
Bianca Neumann, the head of bereavement at the charity Sue Ryder, said the move was welcome, as receiving marketing emails could feel overwhelming and upsetting for people who were grieving. “You may find that the days leading up to Mother’s Day, where you may receive marketing emails, may feel more exhausting than the day itself,” she said.
Neumann said she had heard from many clients who avoided shops around special occasions such as Mother’s Day because they found the displays of cards and gifts upsetting. “The opportunity to opt out of receiving Mother’s Day marketing emails gives people who are grieving a choice,” she said. “When people are grieving, they may not feel in control of how they are feeling and being given a simple choice to opt out of receiving emails can be empowering.”
On social media, some people said they were grateful to receive the chance to opt out. Writing on Twitter, one said: “Really grateful to be able to opt out of mothers day email lists. Year on year this is increasing and I for one am really appreciative of this trend.”
Another wrote: “So glad companies are doing this to opt out of Mother’s Day marketing, my mum passed nearly 6 years now & it’s still a hard day.”
However, others said they thought recently bereaved people would be upset by the messages asking them to opt out. One suggested: “If companies genuinely cared about the reasons behind ‘Mother’s Day opt out’, they wouldn’t send emails reminding people of it with the option to opt out. Surely being sensitive, they’d be sending a ‘national holiday opt out email’ with options to untick day.”
The Very Group said more than one in 10 people who opened the email had opted out of receiving messages, while Waitrose said 8% of its email recipients had done so.
Waitrose said it planned to offer the same for Father’s Day, but confirmed that customers were only able to opt out of the messages for this year. In the future there could be a permanent opt-out.
O’Brien said Very was “planning to do the same for Father’s Day and baby-related events in future”.
Spending on Mother’s Day fell last year as a result of the first lockdown, but it remains an important day for retailers, and many are now more prepared for online sales than in 2020.