Friday, June 13, 2003

Dad is edging out mom this year.

Children are expected to spend more for Father’s Day than Mother’s Day, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. It would be the first time more was spent on dad since the trade group started doing the survey three years ago.

This year Americans are spending an average of $99.65 for Father’s Day compared with $97.37 for Mother’s Day. They spent $94.80 for Father’s Day in 2002 and just $52.30 in 2001.

“Sometimes, consumers jump to the conclusion that everyone spends on Mother’s Day and that Father’s Day lags behind,” said Ellen Tolley, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

Instead, consumers are buying their fathers one expensive gift, like an electronic toy, tool or sports equipment. Mothers get a day-long event, with a card and flowers and dinner, retail analysts said.

Shoppers at Union Station on Capitol Hill yesterday said they are spending more this year for dad than mom.

“I just sent my mom a card,” said Doug Shover, from Ohio. “For my dad I custom-made a frame [for $25] with an old picture from when I was a kid.”

Kate Reber, a District resident, also said she spent more on her father. “I got my mom a bumper sticker, actually, and I got my dad a book and a special type of honey.”

Miss Tolley said this year’s survey demonstrates how important Father’s Day has become for the retail industry.

“All dads are different, and we see a lot of retailers emerging as Father’s Day hot spots,” she said.

Retailers at Union Station, for example, are targeting shoppers with Father’s Day displays ranging from visors and briefcases to baseball caps and coffee mugs.

Wallets and briefcases were selling well at Wilson’s Leather Goods, salespeople said.

Yesterday, the Mall held a “Father’s Day Bazaar” featuring items such as art, candy and jewelry.

Clothes are the top gift for dad this year, with 20 percent of survey respondents saying they would buy items such as ties and golf shirts. Home improvement and gardening tools, 15 percent; gift certificates, 13.9 percent; and books and CDs, 12.4 percent, also are popular choices.

“At this time of the year, Home Depot turns into a Dad Depot,” said Mandy Holton, spokesman for Home Depot in Atlanta. “Lawn equipment, power tools and grills are always big sellers for Father’s Day.”

And which dad isn’t a sucker for electronic gadgets?

Digital cameras, camcorders, DVD players and home theater systems are some of the consumer electronics products that fathers crave, according to a Circuit City press release. The Richmond retail giant also hopes to target “dads on the go” with digital camera phones, hand-held color TVs and men’s grooming kits. is targeting dads with a similar lineup of gadgets.

Some retail anaysts said despite a weak economy, consumers will spend a generous amount for Father’s Day as a sign of appreciation.

“There must [also] be something about the tenor of the times,” said John Butman, director of research for New Luxury at the Boston Consulting Group in Boston. “In difficult times, especially post-September 11, there may be a greater appreciation of both parents.”

“Father’s Day is an emotional spending occasion, and very often gifts connect with people who are very important to you,” he said. “So, buying a premium good shows how much you value the relationship.”

Not all analysts attributed the survey result to love for dad.

“The increase may be due to more sales, advertising, promotion of occasional buying or steep discounts, which would create a stronger incentive to buy a larger shopping cart,” said Milton Kotler, president of Kotler Marketing Group.

Meanwhile, not everyone has decided on what to give his or her dad.

“I got my mom a book,” said Elizabeth Kelley of Falls Church. “I’m not sure yet about my dad, probably a book.”

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