Father’s Day Commerce: Shopping For, With And To Be More Like Dad

Father’s Day has always had some trouble engendering the kind of enthusiasm for gift giving that Mother’s Day does — and we mean always.

The holiday was invented by Sonora Smart Dodd, who, when she first heard about Anna Jarvis’ efforts to create Mother’s Day as a holiday, decided that fathers deserved special recognition, too. It took Anna Jarvis about 14 years before Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday. Dodd, on the other hand, had to work on her cause a good deal longer — finally persuading President Richard Nixon to declare Father’s Day a holiday in 1972.

That 58-year head start has certainly been to the distinct advantage of mothers. It’s not that people don’t celebrate Father’s Day — this weekend people will have BBQs, hand out new dad-style T-shirts, and agree to watch war movies and Civil War documentaries nationwide out of love for their dad.

We just tend to celebrate mom a little more.

In 2018, Americans will spend about $8 billion more on Mother’s Day than they will on Father’s Day — a discrepancy largely attributed to the fact that significantly more people celebrate Mother’s Day. Eighty-six percent of Americans say they observe Mother’s Day. Single motherhood remains a significantly more common phenomenon than single fatherhood.

Adam Ferrier, consumer psychologist and the author of The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour, told Fast Company that it comes down to a few main differences. One, he noted, is gendered buying patterns around the holiday. Women tend to get regular gifts for Mother’s Day, as well as symbolic and emotional gifts like flowers and candy. Dads are harder to buy for — and flowers probably aren’t a good pick.

Since those higher margin, emotional and recurring gifts like flowers and candy tend to be a bigger hit with mom than dad, retailers and merchants — Ferrier noted —  tend to hit Mother’s Day a little harder when it comes to marketing. Outside electronics and home improvement stores, he noted, there isn’t as big a push around Father’s day.

Motherhood, he added, is just historically the harder job, and the perception —  historically anyway — is that, perhaps, mom earned the day a bit more. Fathers tend to be more associated with bread-winning, whereas mothers are often more revered for their parenting skills.

The world is an ever-changing place — and the role of fathers everywhere is changing. Dads are doing more parenting, and possibly even doing a bit better when it comes to fathers’ spending and focus. Dads are also more involved in shopping for themselves and their families, and developing consumer profiles all their own — and outside of hardware stores and electronics dealers.

Dads even buy their own clothes these days. In fact, they are becoming style icons.

Father’s Day: It’s Not Mother’s Day, But It’s Getting There

Father’s Day spending is expected to reach $15.3 billion in 2018, making it the second-highest take the holiday has ever seen, falling behind only last year’s $15.5 billion. Mother’s Day does better with 23.1 billion spent and moms, on average, see a bit more spent on them — $180 apiece as opposed to dads at $133 each.

On the whole, however, National Retail Federation (NRF) CEO Matthew Shay is pleased with the forecast and what it indicates for general strength in the retail sector.

“We are pleased to see consumer confidence continue to rise, leading to another near-record holiday spend on Father’s Day,” said in a press release. “Leading into the second half of the year, Americans are looking forward to treating their dads, and retailers will be prepared to offer a variety of gift options that will create new memories on this special day.”

Dads everywhere are — by the forecast —doing better than the socks, underwear and tie triple-threat gift package that has been the historical staple for Father’s Day. The largest share of the gift spending ($3.2 billion) will be bent toward “special outings” like tickets to a concert or sporting event, or dinner out. Nearly half of the individuals surveyed by the NRF — 47 percent — said they plan to purchase something that fits that category.

Other big areas were clothing, but given the $2.2 billion people are expected to spend, it seems clear that most are shooting a bit higher than socks in the apparel gift department. Consumer electronics ($1.8 billion) and home improvement supplies ($878 million) are also expected to be big gifting areas.

For those looking to give their dad an experience, but have a dad that doesn’t like to go out all that much, because he can make eggs at home and they don’t cost $8 — good news! Artificial intelligence has your back, specifically Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home Assistant.

This year for Father’s Day, one can use Amazon’s new Blueprints portal to custom-build dad an Amazon skill using one of templates offered up just for the holiday. (Amazon released a similar skill template for Mother’s Day.) The “World’s Best Dad” template allows users to create customized compliments for their dad, or they can use “All About Dad” to tell a personalized story for or about their dad. There is also “Dad Jokes” — a home for all the universe’s dad jokes — now just an Alexa request away.

If that sounds heartwarming, but like more work than one can take on before the holiday, Google’s Assistant will now offer you inspirational dad quotes and stories with a simple request. By saying, “Hey Google, tell me a story about fatherhood” or “Hey Google, tell me a Father’s Day story,” a Google Home device will offer up true tales of inspirational fatherhood.

Google Home will also tell you dad jokes.

If dad doesn’t have an AI, well, the Echo Spot is currently $130 — just $3 away from the Father’s Day average.

How Dad’s Shop For Themselves

Moms tend to get most of the credit for being their family’s shopper — for the very good reason that, for the most part, they are. However, that is changing, particularly among millennial dads — bridge millennial dads to be specific. These are older millennials who are aging into home purchases, child-rearing and life in the suburbs.

The next generation of dads is becoming a recognizable shopping demographic all in their own right. Millennial dads are more likely than older dads to be grocery shoppers — 80 percent of millennial dads claim primary or shared grocery shopping responsibility, compared to 45 percent of all dads, according to Y&R’s BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) data. And dads are no longer wandering the aisles, aimlessly buying Oreos — they make their own mobile shopping list.

Dads are different from moms at the store, however. They are more likely to prioritize convenience over cost saving, with 63 percent of fathers reporting value convenience and saving time over saving money, versus 42 percent of moms and 35 percent of all consumers, according to Valassis research.

According to a separate report, dads will not be clipping coupons under most circumstances — most millennials dads said “no” to coupons. Thirty-five percent of dads reported that using coupons in a physical retail context made them feel “cheap.” Moms have no such limitation overall — only 11 percent reported worrying about looking cheap.

That is not to say millennial dads don’t want to save money (they do), but their means are just different. According to research, the number one reason millennial fathers use their phones for retail is for product reviews and ratings, with comparing prices a close second.

And dads aren’t just influencing shopping trends. They are becoming the people we all want to dress like.

The Dad Look

This may sound like a joke, but it is a topic that has gotten coverage in periodicals no less venerable than The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal and GQ, all declaring recently that the hottest look being displayed on runways in shop windows around the world is based on something they are calling dad style: think high waisted jeans, fanny packs, oversized blazers, “saggy” khakis and the like.

The fashion trend, called “dad-core” by Vogue, has been embraced by Kanye, A.C.P and even Balenciaga at its spring runway show.

Brian Trunzo, senior consultant at trend forecasting firm WGSN, told The New York Times, “There’s something uniquely American about it, and very real, red-blooded man, like, ‘I’m going to wear a baggy plaid shirt with relaxed khakis because I’m chilling and I’m comfortable in my manhood.”

Comfortable in their manhood — and their mostly cotton, rather oversized wardrobes. Rumpled khakis are the millennial dad’s yoga pants.

And like yoga pants, they are taking over the world.

“I’ll see myself and think, ‘I look like I’m going out to mow the lawn,’” said Bobby Whigham, a 33-year-old creative director for retailer PacSun. Whigham isn’t a dad — he just really likes dressing like one, partial to carpenter pants, tucked-in T-shirts, over-sized sweatshirts and clunky sneakers. His co-workers reportedly call him “Dad.” He reportedly likes this.

That’s because, if the nation’s fashion leaders are to be believed, dad is the new standard of cool in the United States — or maybe not. This may officially be the moment of millennials doing things ironically, collided with the reality that they are getting older and collapsed in on themselves like a neutron star.

It’s hard to tell.

However you plan to celebrate Father’s Day (with shopping, raiding his closet to be on trend, listening to inspirational stories on a Google Home, or “Dad Jokes” on an Echo), make sure to do something nice for your dad.

Heck, maybe try buying him some flowers. So, he knows he’s just as important as mom.