Friday, June 18, 2004

Dad’s traditional indifference to Father’s Day may have finally caught up with him.

Sons and daughters plan to spend just $86 on their fathers this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That’s $12 less than the $98 they spent on their mothers on Mother’s Day last month, and $13 less than they spent last year on dad.

While nearly 81 percent of Americans celebrated Mother’s Day, only 72 percent plan to celebrate Father’s Day tomorrow, according to the survey of 6,899 persons.

Father’s Day wasn’t on Bill McPhie’s mind as he visited Washington this week. The Lorain, Ohio, dad didn’t offer his 20-something daughters any suggestions this year, except “no flowers” and “no gift certificates.” And his wife, Barb, said Mr. McPhie and other men are more likely to run to the store themselves if they want something, instead of asking for it as a gift. Moms, on the other hand, usually offer suggestions for Mother’s Day.

In total, consumers will spend $8.04 billion on their fathers, and spent $10.43 billion on their mothers.

Traditionally, consumers have spent more on Mother’s Day gifts, NRF spokeswoman Ellen Tolley said.

“Mom likes a big celebration,” Miss Tolley said. “She enjoys flowers and brunch and a gift and a card. Dad is a little bit more low maintenance. There’s nothing wrong with moms wanting to celebrate in a certain way.”

Alan Corbet, 43, of Kansas City, Mo., says his sons have a “really cool surprise” planned for him, but agrees that people are more likely to dote on mom than dad.

“No matter what their life is, they’re considered the caretakers,” said Mr. Corbet, who was eating lunch in Union Station this week. He encourages his sons, ages 15 and 17, to be generous with their mother.

The NRF was surprised to see the drop in the amount people plan to spend on their fathers this year, Miss Tolley said. They speculatively attribute the drop to uncertainty with the situation in Iraq and high gas prices.

However, since the poll was conducted in late May, gas prices have stopped their climb. Miss Tolley said there is still time for consumers to increase their spending and for retailers to benefit from a lift in sales.

“There’s nothing to suggest Father’s Day this year will be different from years past,” she said. But the drop in numbers has made Father’s Day spending “a little tough to call.”

Three-quarters of buyers plan to purchase at least a greeting card, followed in popularity by clothes, gift certificates and books or CDs for their father or grandfather. About 41 percent of Americans plan on celebrating with a special outing, such as dinner or brunch.

Janelle Danielson, 18, of Princeton, Ill., combined gifts for her mother and father into one porch swing, which she gave them on Mother’s Day. She spent about $130 on the gift.

“They would be mad if I spent that much twice,” said Miss Danielson, who also was visiting Washington this week.

Despite the amount spent on Father’s Day gifts, almost half of fathers don’t remember what they received for Father’s Day last year, according to a survey by

It took Mr. Corbet a moment to remember the blender his sons got him for Father’s Day last year. This year, he guesses his sons will get him a gas grill or the espresso machine he has talked about.

Mr. Corbet said the best part of the day is spending time with his sons.

“It’s really special,” he said, breaking into a smile. “I always enjoy it.”

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