*Editor’s Note: CC Biz Buzz is a monthly column series that features insightful commentary from a member of the Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business faculty.
For those fathers reading this on Sunday, Happy Father’s Day. Before you light up the grill and open your surprise gifts of neckties, power tools and gift cards (sorry, I was too busy to go on Amazon and pick something out), let’s talk a little about the business of Father’s Day.
Father’s Day became an official holiday in 1972, signed into law by President Richard Nixon some 58 years after Mother’s Day’s official recognition. The idea for Father’s Day was first observed in the mid-1900s, but it did not become an official holiday until 1972. Some dads love the holiday, while others express contempt based on the commercialization and feelings of domestication that align with Mother’s Day’s history. Nonetheless, this celebration in the United States has become big business.
According to estimates from the National Retail Federation, Americans are projected to spend an average of $196 on gifts in 2023 for a total of approximately $22.9 billion. That’s right, folks, Father’s Day is Big Business. A simple Google search will lead you to titles like “How to get the most out of Father’s Day as a small business,” “8 Father’s Day promotion ideas to try in your retail store,” and finally, “Supermarkets on Father’s Day: 4 tips to increase your sales”. What are we spending all of that money on? According to National Retail Federation, the top gifts include special outings (golf, anyone?), gift cards, electronics, and, if you can believe it, approximately 100 million neckties (do people still wear these?). Let’s not forget all the #1 Dad, Best Dad mugs and such, and one of my favorites, the Dog Father T-shirt (I love the Godfather movies). Supermarkets and grocery stores also make a killing during the weekend with an average of 41% more total revenue than an average Saturday during the year. The same applies to restaurants, golf courses and butcher shops. For those who still purchase actual greeting cards (about 60%), this day is also a windfall for companies like Hallmark or American Greeting Cards.
As the saying goes, “It is better to give than receive,” which is likely why we, as a collective, will continue to spend billions for holidays that bring joy and connectedness to our lives. My father lives about 750 miles away, so I’ll call him today and be sure to send a card. Writing this column reminds me of the joy my brother and I would have shopping for Father’s Day when we were young, trying to pick out that perfect gift. It didn’t matter what we ended up with; Dad was always happy. While retailers expect us to spend big bucks, it’s really not about the stuff but the experience and connectedness we have with our Father(s), Mother(s), or chosen family on this holiday.
So while this column is traditionally a “business” column, for today, I just want to say, “Love You, Dad.” Happy Father’s Day to all the great parents out there doing the best you can, and now the grill awaits.
Dr. Mary Dorn is an assistant professor of Finance in the Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business.