This Father’s Day, nearly four in 10 children will venture where no father wants to go: the department store. And to prove their dads really are the world’s greatest, they’ll buy what few dads like to shop for: clothes.
Or do they? The findings are among the results of a National Retail Federation survey, which indicates Father’s Day spending in 2019 will reach nearly $140 per person, on average, for a total of $16 billion. The figure represents a 70% increase ($6.6 billion) from a decade ago.
But perhaps more surprising than the marked increase in spending are the people most likely to purchase the men’s apparel and related items: other men. And not by a little. Men are expected to spend an average of $160.74 for dad, compared with $118.29 in spending by women.
A look at broader trends, from the influence of technology to our general health, helps to explain why.
The Evolution Of Father’s Day: A Man-Splaining
First off, we must bury old misconceptions about men not caring about their wardrobes. Today’s man spends more on apparel than his dad did, period. The expectation that men will buy clothes as Father’s Day gifts is, therefore, logical.
But the uptick in Father’s Day spending, whether it’s for clothes, golf clubs or “World’s Greatest Dad” mugs, derives from various broader factors. Here are four:
- Men are living longer. Older men can expect to live longer than their fathers, which means their children will buy more annual Father’s Day gifts. In 2016, a 65-year-old man could expect to live an additional 18 years, according to Centers for Disease Control (DCD) estimates. In 2010, he could count on 16 years, and in 1990, 15 years. This may explain why the NRF projects the biggest spenders this Father’s Day will be the older generation’s offspring, ages 35 to 44. This group plans to shell out nearly $200 for dad. (The NRF does not break out male/female spending in this age group, but considering men are expected to spend more overall implies those ages 35 to 44 will spend more, as well.)
- Men aren’t making as many babies. Americans are having fewer kids, and have been for a number of years. Figures released in January by the CDC show 1,766 births per 1,000 women (1.77 babies each), compared with 1,862 in 2014. What’s that? You think that means there will be fewer fathers for whom to buy gifts? Maybe in a decade or so, but right now that means a lot of men, especially men in their late 20s, have more money to save and to spend on other people, like dad. The average age of a first-time father is 31 (compared with 27 in 1972), and the number of men having babies in their 40s is twice as high as it was in the 1970s.
- More people are watching them. Social media platforms, Instagram in particular, play a role in men placing more emphasis on their appearances. Designers have picked up on this thread, expanding their offerings to suit men’s lifestyles beyond the workplace — to streetwear, athleticwear and casualwear (explaining the popularity of men’s sweatpants). Back in 2016, the PR agency Boutique @ Ogilvy released survey results that suggested sales of men’s apparel would outpace those of women’s in 2017 — 8.3% to 4.2%. On a monthly basis, that came out to $85 for men and about $75 for women. The trend has since continued: The market research firm Euromonitor forecasts sales of men’s clothing is outpacing that of women’s, at a compounded annual growth rate of 2% from 2017 through 2022.
- There are easier options. Study after study has supported that men approach shopping like it’s a git-r-done task. They don’t browse much; just find what they already know they need and finish the job. Online retailers are appealing because they step right into the man’s path, removing the requirements to drive, park and wait in line. If it’s an easy-to-navigate site, the male shopper just has to search (dark blue sweaters, medium), click and purchase. Even Amazon, which is not the easiest-to-navigate site for apparel, lands more male than female clothes shoppers. A study by CPC Strategy found that 56% of men are more likely to buy clothing from Amazon, compared with 53% of women.
This last shopping trend is further supported by the National Retail Federation’s Father’s Day research. It shows that after department stores, men are most likely to buy their gifts online — 34% said they would. Nearly 40% of men are expected to use their mobile devices to research Father’s Day products, potentially to make that dreaded department store trip shorter.