Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Ties, tools, paternity leave: Fathers in the marketplace

June 10, 2014

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Sometimes it's grandpa who gets to celebrate Father's Day. Photo: Jim Mullhaupt

The annual salute to dads comes up June 15, and like all traditional and manufactured holidays and observances, marketers are not shy about using it to spark consumer spending.  My e-mail inbox is clogged with frantic exhortations from national chains pushing grills, apparel, retro beer posters, tools, cheese-and-sausage packs and other delights for Pop — all on sale, of course.

Like last year, I was amused at Yankee Candle’s attempt to add a bit of macho to its line of scented candles; forget jasmine, vanilla and fresh-baked cookies — a catalog arrived with scratch-n-sniff panels so patrons can determine whether their patriarch would prefer his candle in “Camouflage,” “Riding Mower,” “Man Town” or “Bacon.”  You gotta give them credit for chutzpah!   I wonder what other traditionally feminine products are being repackaged for men; instead of wrench or a tie, for example, are more men receiving spa gift cards and the like for Father’s Day?

That might be an interesting angle to report.  Last year the New York Post reported that “More and more New York dads are asking for facials, Botox and neck lifts on Father’s Day,” and last week a rugged carpenter I employed proudly displayed the baby-soft results of his latest chemical face peel as he slathered on sunscreen and gave me tips on his favorite skincare line, which is a few notches above mine on the luxury scale.  What are spas, beauty-product kiosks, salons and cosmetic surgeons in your area seeing in terms of demand?

Despite the plethora of sales pitches, the National Retail Federation reports that Father’s Day falls fairly low on the holiday spending scale; its 2014 survey says “the average person will spend $113.80 on neckties, tools, electronics and other special gifts for dad, slightly down from $119.84 last year. Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $12.5 billion.” USA Today reported on what not to buy dad:  What dad really wants for Father’s Day.

Father's Day cupcakes
The proprieter of Sugar Daze, L’Authentique Cupcake Américain à Paris made these cupcakes for Father’s Day.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, that’s $7 billion less than American’s spend on Mother’s Day in May.  It would be interesting to parse the sociological reasons for that, and it’s also an interesting question to pose to your area’s merchants and restaurants;  do they see fewer people celebrating, or just celebrating Dad with lower-priced meals and gifts, and either way what are they doing to boost spending?

Dads in the workplace

Aside from the retail aspect, you might want to look at workplace issues related to fatherhood.

Paternity leave is back in the zeitgeist following publicity about the flak one baseball player received for choosing to attend the birth of his baby rather than play in season-opening games; the player, Daniel Murphy, was a White House guest this week, reviving the debate.   Why not survey your area’s largest employers, as well as a good sampling of small- and medium-sized businesses in your area, about parental leave policies.  Which are most generous, which offer paternity leave in addition to paid maternity leave and if they don’t, why not?   Audiences would probably appreciate a rundown on policies at corporate and public employers, in the form of a comparative clip-and-save graphic.   Here’s a handy round-up of state laws regarding family and medical leave from the National Conference of State Legislatures; few states require it but you can check on pending bills.

This Today.com report cites a Today survey and others about attitudes regarding paternity leave and the effect on men’s careers; the Boston College Center for Work and Family it refers to seems like an interesting source of research and experts if you’re delving deeper.   Here’s a similar report from the Washington Post about men’s reluctance to use leave when it’s offered.

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