Father’s Day, Commerce And The New Millennial Dad

Pop culture loves moms, pretty much unequivocally.


Well dads are a little more complicated.

There are “Father Knows Best” dads — such as Jim Anderson, Ward Cleaver, Danny Tanner, or Jay Pritchard — they might be a bit goofy, gruff or distant, but on the whole they are their family’s level-headed center.

There are the “Father Is A Little Clueless” dads — Rob Petrie, Homer Simpson, Tim Taylor or Phil Dunphy — good hearts, love their families but if left to their own devices by Laura, Marge, Jill or Claire for too long something will go wrong.

Stack that up to how mothers normally show up on the large and small screen, and, well, the difference is pretty stark. Moms are the family heroes. Dads, not always.

And though you might be tempted to write this off as a theory developed by this writer spending way too much time around sitcom families, please note that Father’s Day offers us a unique opportunity to quantify the difference with a number.

$7.1 billion.

In context, $7.1 billion is the difference between what Americans spent on their mothers this year for Mother’s Day, $21.4 billion, and what the NRF projects Americans will spend on Dad this Father’s Day, $14.3 billion.

And while mothers everywhere might in some small way be tempted to turn to their parental counterparts and say “I can prove with math the children love me 50 percent more than they love you,” the data, when you look a bit deeper, is a bit more nuanced than that.

Dads will be doing just fine this year — and perhaps, as they spend more time buying groceries, cooking dinner and then cleaning said dinner up (or finding an app to do all of those things for them), they just might do better during the annual paying of tribute going forward.

Counting The Father's Day Lucre

Other than the fact that it is $7.1 billion less than is spent on Mother’s Day, the dads of the world can still be pretty proud, collectively, of their haul this year.

As it turns out spending in some areas will likely be basically the same, or slightly higher, than what consumers spent on Mother’s Day. This year shoppers are expected to spend a hair under $2 billion on cards and clothes for Dad, and around $1.7 billion consumer electronics. Just about what they spent on mom.

Brunch is also big for Father’s day, too. It is projected that $3.1 billion will be spent on it, though that is still about a billion short of what is spent brunching on Mother’s Day.

A lot of the difference just comes out of the types of gifts one is likely to buy for one’s Mom vs. their Dad.

Dads tend to lose out in high spend categories like jewelry and flowers. And those are very high spend categories; collectively they accounted for $6.6 billion of Mother’s Day spending this year. Dads make up for it, though. Children buy their fathers things like books and auto parts that don’t tend to show up so often on Mother’s Day, but it doesn’t quite cover the gap.

Said simply: Diamonds cost more than car parts and biographies of famous historical generals, therefore the numbers tend to be a bit bigger on Mother’s Day.

The important thing to watch, notes the NRF, is that spending is growing, and in 2016 has reached its high level since the NRF began tabulating Father’s Day spending 13 years ago. On average consumers will be shelling out $125.92 on dear old dad for the holiday, up from last year’s $115.57.

“It’s encouraging to see consumers planning to splurge on dads,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This increase in spending could be a good sign related to consumers’ willingness to spend more as we head into the second half of the year.”

“After seeing consumers splurge on moms and graduates earlier this year, it’s no surprise that dads are going to enjoy a few more gifts on Father’s Day,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow noted.

The Dad Of The Future

Moms still do the lion’s share of domestic work (cooking, cleaning, child rearing, shopping, and general household management) are more likely to be managed by a mother. This is true whether mothers work full-time, part-time or exclusively in the home.

And while a lot of the difference in Mother's Day and Father’s Day spending can be explained with what is bought, there is still about half-a-billion dollars to account for. We might hazard a guess here — when it comes time to buy a gift, most of us are more inclined to buy a diamond bracelet for the person we remember throwing up on more.

But good news for the dad of the next millennium. They are spending more time with their kids, doing more housework, cooking and taking more trips to the grocery store with their children.

In fact, recent data from Mintel indicates that millennial dads could be the future of retail.

Because while men in general don’t like to shop, young dads love nothing more than shopping with their children. Given the choice, Mintel’s data indicates they would rather be buying their kids things than themselves.

“Millennial dads view shopping with their kids as a way to bond and teach them valuable lessons,” the report said.

And numbers back it up. When asked, 80 percent of millennial dads reported they preferred going to the store with their kids (as opposed to 63 percent of parents in general) and 74 percent reported that shopping together is a good way to bond (as opposed to 53 percent of parents in general). And 83 percent report feeling better buying things for their kids than for themselves.

And social media is increasingly becoming a place for the enthused millennial dad to share their parenting skills. Need to know how to French braid hair? No problem, there are over 8,000 videos for that. Need to create the perfect ponytail in time for that dance recital? If you have an internet connection and a vacuum cleaner (seriously), the web is waiting for you with arms wide open full of good — and maybe not-so-good — ideas.

These are not the screen dads of the last century that are decent (but distant), dangerously devoid of adult skills or just deranged. Nope. Normal dads are braiding hair, cooking dinner, embarrassing their children on the ride to school and even doing the laundry.

So, good news for dads everywhere. As you spend more time keeping your kids in princess dresses and superhero band aids, it is possible that you too can have your diamond bracelet equivalent for Father’s Day.

And because the millennial dad spent a lot of time at the store with his kids showing the value of a dollar, they’ll probably even get a pretty good deal on whatever it is.



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.

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