Getting More Out of Dad’s Day (A Postmortem)
By Tom Ryan
Father’s Day, described by one newspaper columnist as the "Rodney Dangerfield
of Holidays," yesterday turned 100. Having just endured another, retailers
and marketers may be wondering this morning what they did wrong. But perhaps
it’s the fault of the holiday itself.
After Mother’s Day became an official holiday in 1908, Sonora Smart Dodd of
Spokane, WA, led to her state to hold the first Father’s Day on June 19, 1910.
But it wasn’t until 1972 that it became an official holiday. The holiday for
much of the 20th century had met with much satire and derision with legislators
particularly concerned that its passage as an official holiday was only designed
to fill in a gap in the promotional retail calendar. While citizens of Spokane
last week held parties to celebrate the anniversary, a number of other articles
lamented on the sorry state of the holiday, particularly compared to Mother’s
According to the National Retail Federation, total spending around Father’s
Day was expected to reach $9.8 billion this year, or about 60 percent of the
$14.6 million spent around Mother’s Day. Those figures are somewhat skewed
since Mother’s Day is a particularly big restaurant holiday while Father’s
Day is about backyard barbecues. But the average spend at retail was said to
be noticeable lower with a focus on items such as work shirts and ties, electronics,
greeting cards, gardening and home improvement tools, and automotive accessories.
"Dad is a little more laid-back and easier to shop for," NRF spokesperson
Kathy Grannis told National Geographic Daily News.
Other reasons given for the disparity between shopping for mom vs. dad were
that most children just spend more time with their moms, as well as nearly
half of all marriages now ending in divorce.
But others felt merchandise was the issue. John Ryan, owner of Jerry Ryan
Clothing & Sportswear in Omaha, told Omaha World-Herald that he
believes Father’s Day was a bigger retail event twenty years ago because many
of the items men want now — such as electronics, golf items or car accessories
— are purchased throughout the year with the bigger-ticket items purchased
around the Christmas holiday.
In his column in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Aaron London, believes
product is largely uninspiring.
"Realistically, how many ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ coffee mugs,
T-shirts and boxer shorts can one father need?" asked Mr. London. "And
is it really still necessary to support the garish tie industry with the purchase
of neckties no man will ever wear in public just to get a good chuckle on Father’s
Still, there’s also a feeling that dads are partly to largely to blame for
any gift shortfalls. Mr. Ryan believes men don’t know what they want, making
shopping for them a chore for wives.
Discussion Questions: What was your Father’s Day experience like this year?
Why do you think Father’s Day spending lags so far behind Mother’s Day? Is
there anything else retailers could be doing to change that?
- Clothes, Gadgets and Gift Cards Prevail as Top Gifts This Father’s
Day, According to NRF Survey – National Retail Federation
- Mom Second Only to Winter Holidays, According to NRF Survey – National
- Easy to Please on Father’s Day – National Geographic Daily News
- Dad, don’t expect a lot – Omaha World-Herald
- Happy 100th birthday, Father’s Day – MSNBC
- Rodney Dangerfield of holidays puts dads front and center – Daytona
- Father’s Day Centennial: June 20, 2010 – Census.gov