Home > Consumer Behavior & Trends, Monthly Consumer Survey, Retail > The Father’s Day / Mother’s Day Spending Gap Explained [?]

The Father’s Day / Mother’s Day Spending Gap Explained [?]

In our ten years of gathering spending intentions for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day for the National Retail Federation, one glaring item has always been consistent: shoppers spend more money on Moms.

While Dad finally appears to be getting his due this year, with the average consumer budgeting $117.14 this Father’s Day, spending for June 17 will still be eclipsed by the $152.52 they planned to spend on Mom last month. That’s right, consumers are allotting 23% less for dear ol’ Dad – and that’s an improvement from the 32% gap that existed in 2008.

Mother's Day v. Father's Day Combined Average Spending

So why do consumers spend less for Father’s Day? Perhaps we’re just so tapped out from Mother’s Day that by the time Dad’s Day rolls around, we’re tightening the purse strings. [wink] Jokes aside, let’s take a look at more realistic possibilities for the spending gap between those big days for Mom and Pop:

THEORY #1: Mom is…well…Mom. Under the most traditional of circumstances, Moms tend to be the nurturers in the family. Who else would kiss the bandaged knee and “make it all better”? [OK, maybe Grandma – also a Mom BTW]. Consider this, too: within two-income households, the multitasking mother may earn a paycheck and run the household. Now I’m not saying that Dad doesn’t chip in or do his fair share of chores and child-rearing [though I don’t recall my Dad ever doing a load of laundry], but doesn’t this double-duty earn Moms the right to a little something extra each May?

Perhaps different* parental dynamics just make us predisposed to doting on Mom a little more.

THEORY #2: Blame it on the weather. For those of us lucky to live in states where we see the seasons change [though I could do without Ohio winters], by early May the weather’s getting warmer, greenhouses are full of new flowers, and restaurants begin offering outdoor dining again – in a nutshell, we’ve got all of these super excuses to celebrate Mom (and put a little spring in our spending).

By the time Father’s Day rolls around, though, it’s also pool season, t-ball [etc.] season, graduation season – and that’s a lot of seasons to pack into a busy mid-June weekend. Perhaps it’s all we can do to fit a little special time in for Dad on Father’s Day.

And let’s not forget that it’s also grilling season. Hot dogs are cheaper than a sit-down restaurant, so the special family meal may be more cost-conscious than last month’s Mother’s Day brunch.

THEORY #3: What does Dad really want? When was the last time you saw your Dad drooling over the newest Pandora® beads or shiny trinkets in the display case at a jewelry store? For Mom, it’s probably another story, and that’s guilt in the form of savvy** Mother’s Day marketing, my friends. Retailers try to up the ante for Father’s Day, too, but it never seems to have the same impact, does it?

While some Dads may drop heavy Father’s Day hints, I’m willing to guess that [based on personal experience] most do not. So what to buy? Those golf clubs should last a good 30 years [right?!], and I don’t know about you, but I shudder just thinking about the prospect of heading to my local big box and hunting down a “good” tool that he already doesn’t have.

I KNOW.

THE BEST GIFT EVER.

WHAT DAD REALLY WANTS IS…

A TIE.

Did you know that besides greeting cards, the most popular tangible gift for Dad this year is apparel? Forget the spending gap; perhaps Dad’s bigger issue is that he’s suffering from gift discrimination. More than two in five shoppers (42.3%) plan to gift apparel for Father’s Day, compared to just 32.8% who anticipated buying apparel for Mother’s Day. [BTW, flowers were the most popular Mother’s Day gift this year.]

Percentage Planning to Buy Clothing: Mother's Day v. Father's Day

Whatever the reason that consumers spend less on Father’s Day, I guess it’s good that Dads just seem to go with the flow. And we love them all the more for it.

For the official National Retail Federation press release: Dads Finally Getting Their Due This Father’s Day, According to NRF Survey.

And, check out the Shop.org Blog for additional insights: Online Father’s Day shoppers expect seamless cross-channel shopping.

*Note: Not “good,” not “bad,” just “different.”
**Note: Not “good,” not “bad,” just “savvy.”

Source: BIGinsight™ Monthly Consumer Survey – MAY-12 (N = 8789, 5/2 – 5/8/12)

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

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  1. A few more ideas.
    June 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm | #1

    What about the shift in USA family structure (single Moms more than ever?) and divorce rates (kids live w/ Mom or Dad?)… these vary considerably by ethnic and race demos as well.
    Does you weather theory hold up in markets with moderate climate all year long?

  1. June 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm | #1

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