Dads matter too!

Retailers agree with Father’s Day lower sales data – but blame the men


Data showing Father’s Day spend is less than half of that for Mother’s Day has been corroborated by the experiences of greeting card retailers – who all admit they’re partly at fault, but mums have to take some of the blame too.

While Austin & Co’s Sean Austin commented that his experience is of dads saying not to bother, others pointed to the number of fathers they see shopping with their children for Mother’s Day cards and gifts, but the reverse isn’t as common, with busy mums grabbing a Father’s Day card as they dash around the shops, to hand to the kids to write.

Above & top: The dogfather is important at Austin & Co, as Sean’s pooch shows
Above & top: The dogfather is important at Austin & Co, as Sean’s pooch shows

GlobalData research has revealed that this year’s Father’s Day spend overall in the UK is forecast to reach £695million, up 1.8% on 2023, as the event looms on Sunday, 16 June, but said retailers should kick off the dads’ promotions earlier.

“Most retailers don’t market Father’s Day gifting and card options until close to the occasion, meaning consumers are unlikely to start spending early and spread the cost or, indeed, be encouraged to pick up small add-ons that can quickly mount up to a larger spend on the event,” Tash Van Boxel, retail analyst at GlobalData, said.

“In contrast, Mother’s Day gifting displays often appear in February, just after Valentine’s Day, giving consumers gifting inspiration well in advance. Retailers must have a similar marketing schedule for Father’s Day to bolster demand and promote growth in the UK Father’s Day retail market.”

But, from his store in Malvern, Sean commented: “There’s a much bigger force at play rather than retailers not marketing Father’s Day fully, and that’s dads themselves.

“How often do you hear dads saying ‘not to bother’ with a card let alone a gift, or ‘don’t waste your money on a made-up event’? My father was very much against the whole idea of Father’s Day but he never refused the 24 cans of Banks’ Mild I’d give him every year!

“What we need to tell their offspring is that their dads are basically lying and, in reality, they do want to be treated as much as the mums are – how many dads get breakfast in bed?

“We went very early with Father’s Day cards this year, six weeks before the day, and three weeks earlier than previous years, and they’ve been selling surprisingly well. As for gifting, we never have anything that has been solely produced for Father’s Day, inscribed with To Dad etc.

“Instead, we push our more dad-friendly and masculine stationery offer to the forefront and tools from the likes of Designworks’ Gentleman’s Hardware collection, gadgets from Remember and, at the higher price end, backpacks by Roka. So we have gifting for dad, but it’s a more subtle approach, and I know it will sell throughout the year rather than for a couple of weeks in June.

“We also play on Dog Dad. There’s always an increase in dog toys and accessories at this time of the year from the dog buying something for their dogfather. Dogs are very good at buying for their dads because the dog knows when their dad is lying – we just have to teach the human offspring.”

Above: Katrina from Etcetera (left) with Hugs & Kisses’ Caroline Ranwell
Above: Katrina from Etcetera (left) with Hugs & Kisses’ Caroline Ranwell at The Greats Awards last month

At Etcetera in Hitchin, owner Katrina Raill concurs completely about the level of spending, and added: “We’ve had a large spinner dedicated to Father’s Day cards on the shop floor for almost three weeks now and pick up is slow but steady. Generally, people buy their cards in the last week as opposed to Mother’s Day where they seem to be planning it much more in advance.

“We do try to push Father’s Day as much as possible – we have decals on the window, the card spinner and a display of gifts, not just specifically for Father’s Day but for men in general.

“After chatting with customers, a lot say they’ll buy a card but then buy a bottle of an alcoholic drink or something dedicated to a sport or pastime their dads enjoy.

“I do think it’s difficult to source gifts for men in general as we want to stock different products to the generic Dad mugs, etc, that you can find in the major supermarkets.

“I’ve found items for cooking are picking up. We stock a decent range of cheese and wine accessories, chopping boards and games that are picking up in popularity – maybe because during Covid there wasn’t much else to do apart from cook and play games! We also have a small selection of multi tools for the home and garden as they seem fairly popular but you do have to try and guide customers down that route.

“Here’s hoping this Father’s Day will be a winner for all us independents.”

Above: The original 4ft of Father’s Day cards has been extended at Hugs & Kisses
Above: The original 4ft of Father’s Day cards has since been extended at Hugs & Kisses

Four feet of Father’s Day cards went out at Hugs & Kisses in Tettenhall as soon as Easter finished on 2 April, but owner Caroline Ranwell only last week extended it because “it’s always so last minute”.

She added: “I think the main reason it’s so much less popular than Mother’s Day is really down to the boys! Many of them don’t bother, they just take dad to the pub. Mum is totally different, they wouldn’t dare not get her a card – the world would end!

“We have a small range of specific dad gifts, mugs, coasters, plaques, frames, keyrings and socks and then more in general male designs, plus a new range of gorgeous male candles and, of course, we sell a huge amount of our delicious Belgian chocolates.

“So far it’s not really taken off yet, we’ve been selling a few cards here and there as it really is so very last minute. We promote Father’s Day by having a selection of dad gifts and gift bags in the window and then we also promote it all over our social media, reminding people not to forget their lovely dad.”

Above: Mooch owners Sandra and Evelyn are pushing Father's Day on social media
Above: Mooch owners Sandra and Evelyn are pushing Father’s Day on social media

The limited selection of dad gifts Sandra O’Connell offers is one reason she believes the spend is so much lower in her Mooch stores in Ealing, Fulham and Barnes, but she’s been pushing the occasion on social media.

Sandra said: “Our card sales for Father’s Day have always been really strong, we find women tend to be more organised and start buying earlier and often buy a card from each child to give to their father.

“We will be doing some nice Father’s Day windows in all our shops, we don’t have a particular new product, just new season designs, We do well with books, socks, mugs, wallet, keyrings etc.

We have only put a small selection of Father’s Day cards out a couple of weeks ago, our shops are very small, but last week we popped them all on display.”

Stephanie Morrison asked: “Father’s Day has always been a smaller event compared to Mother’s Day – do we value our mothers more than our fathers, or is it because they’re harder to buy for!”

She finds sales of Father’s Day cards are always slower compared to Mother’s Day at The Gift Box in Peebles, and added: “This year I’ve bought in some outdoor/biking related gifts as biking is huge in the Scottish Borders, especially after the World Cycling Championships last year where a few of the races were just down the road from us.

“I have bought mugs and prints from Oldfield Designs, and bike-related mugs, coasters and keyrings from Ellie Bean Prints. These will sell faster as we get closer to Father’s Day.”

Above: Ellie Bean cycling cards and gifts are at The Gift Box
Above: Ellie Bean cycling cards and gifts are at The Gift Box

With stores in Cheadle, Didsbury, Knutsford and Marple, family-run Zo&Co tries to cover everyone and co-owner Paul Carter told PG Buzz: “We put the same amount of love and care into every occasion as we believe everybody deserves a gift as special as them, and Father’s Day is no exception.

“We can’t deny the industry has a larger female demographic which is why we relish the month of June to showcase our male gifts and take the chance to offer special gifts for the gentlemen in our lives.

“From socks to stationery, we like to offer something for everyone, using visual merchandising of masculine props such as ties and bowler hats to bring products to life showcasing the occasion.

“Father’s Day always brings a fresh new concept to our stores with the spotlight on male gifts offering a complete new browsing experience as we reinvent the shop to suit the event. As a result, we see strong sales where customers enjoy the store refresh and glimpse our new products.”

Sales at Earlybird in Stoke Newington are up 1.5% compared to the same time last year, which may be slight but it’s a win co-owner Heidi Early is happy to take.

“We’ve had a number of independent businesses on our street close in the first quarter of this year,” she said, “trading is possibly the hardest we’ve ever known it so it’s more important than ever to make the most out of every occasion but also to listen to our customers.

“So our full focus is cards, making sure the range is wide and covers varying price points. We had them on the shop floor six weeks before Father’s Day and they’ve been selling steadily from day one.

“Father’s Day gifts have always been a much harder sell and very last minute so we’ve kept our offering tight. Our customers are very climate aware and, rightly, won’t buy gifts for the sake of it so, this year, we’ve opted for sustainable bamboo socks from Smiling Face. The designs are great, the sizing is pretty unisex and the designs will sell all year round.

Above: Earlybird has socks, and chocolate to sell all year round as well as Father’s Day cards
Above: Earlybird has socks, and chocolate to sell all year round as well as Father’s Day cards

“Our chocolate supplier, Coco Chocolatier, produces amazing bars that are packaged like little works of art and have a strong ethical ethos. Again, it’s a product that does well for us all year round. We’re also promoting our UK-produced mugs from Stubbs and games from Talking Tables, which again are constant sellers.

“Last year we took just over 9% less through Father’s Day sales than Mother’s Day but I think the difference between the two occasions isn’t because retailers market it less – we reflect what our customers want. It’s that Mother’s Day is a much older tradition, with religious roots rather than a commercially-driven occasion like Father’s Day, so people are much more sceptical.

‘And, even in 2024, the majority of mums are seen as holding the family together and always being there for their children. Mother’s Day is a reminder of that so who doesn’t want a chance to say thanks mum – most would be in trouble if they didn’t send their mum a card at least!

“In contrast, Father’s Day is the only occasion where every year we get customers asking for just straight Happy Father’s Day on cards. They don’t necessarily think their dad is the best ever or someone to look up to, but they do just want to send a card and say hello.

“Our customer base is dominated by young families so the sales tend to reflect that, mums with younger children generally buying for their husbands or partners for the child. I think parents with younger children feel like they need to spoil each other, especially in the early days of being a family, whereas if you’re older and are buying for your dad then just a card and a fairly generic one would do the job!”

Above: Father’s Day sales have halved over the past seven years at Reflections in Nantwich
Above: Father’s Day sales have halved over the past seven years at Reflections in Nantwich

The data adds up for Philip Nield at Reflections in Nantwich where the dad sales have always been considerably less for this season than Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day.

Philip explained: “We have also identified that greeting card sales for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Easter continue to be really good, but Father’s Day is now half what it was in 2017.

“We promote Father’s Day with an outside A board, window display and interior point-of-sale on the fixtures, I’ll also run a couple of features on our town Facebook page leading up to the event.

We already stock a good range of male gifts and bring these to the front of the store for the season.

“The four spring seasons are very important to any specialist card shop as they total 25% of our Christmas sales.”

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