Solving the Father's Day gift dilemma
Father's Day spending is up, but don't get Dad yet another tie, experts say. Take him to a ballgame or a beer festival instead.
This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.
What does Dad want? He may not even know. There's no equivalent of flowers for Father's Day, no safe and obvious gift to fall back on. Mom may not be easy to please, but at least she's easy to shop for.
Despite this, Father's Day spending is up 10% this year, with the average consumer shelling out $117, reports the National Retail Federation. The increase is a reflection of the recovering economy, as well as a more concerted effort among consumers to celebrate the holiday.
Even dads have been downplaying the day in recent years, says NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis. "Typically, when it comes to Father's Day, there's a lot to be said of men who don't want to be made a big deal of," she says. "They tell kids, if you're going to spend money, spend it on your mother." (And they do, to the tune of an average $152 this year, although the gap between Mom and Dad has narrowed.)
Dad is also tougher to buy for, experts say. Greeting cards aside, NRF spending data indicates there's no far-and-away front-runner for the top Father's Day gift. It doesn't help that consumers' higher spending this year has led marketers to push pretty much everything as a Father's Day gift, says Pam Danziger, the president of luxury research firm Unity Marketing.
For example, personal care products and automotive accessories weren't even categories on the NRF survey until 2009, when 13% and 7% of shoppers said they bought them. This year, 18% and 14% will, respectively.
The question to ask, Danziger says, is what would Dad want? "What's going to be memorable? Quality time spent with his family," she says. "That's much more meaningful than a tie or a gift card." (Post continues below.)
Dads seem to concur. A Techbargains survey found 87% of dads would rather have dinner with the family than "a night in the man cave" -- and 65% would rather get nothing than receive another tie.
With that in mind, here's what the experts suggest:
Daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial have long offered half-price sales to local, dad-friendly attractions such as batting cages and go-cart tracks, but the model has shifted recently to make gift giving easier, says Dan Hess, the chief executive of deal-tracking site Dealradar. Most sites now offer several new deals each day, with each up for grabs for a few days -- instead of the old model of sales that start and end on the same day.
"Deals are starting to look more like e-commerce overall," he says. Look for options that Dad can enjoy with other family members, rather than deals for say, solo golf lessons. For example, InBundles.com has tickets to a craft beer and bacon festival in New York for as little as $12, a 52% discount. In Dallas, Zozi.com has 41% off a full-day paintball package for two, at $38.
Thanks to a growing array of e-ticketing options, consumers who want to take Dad out for a ball game or a show on Father's Day may be able to find cheap tickets on the secondary market even on the holiday itself.
Baseball tickets are the best budget bet, with prices often starting at just $5, says Mike Janes, the chief executive of search site FanSnap. If Dad prefers football, it's possible to gift him with NFL tickets ahead of time. Season ticketholders have already started selling the tickets they won't use, he says, and prices are as cheap as $30. "NFL pre-season tickets are available, too, and they practically give those away," he says.
Most consumers who plan to buy Dad a tech gift are looking at tablets and smartphones, reports PriceGrabber.com. But while battling Dad in "Words with Friends" can be fun, shoppers may be better served with an even more interactive tech purchase such as a video game console or a TV.
"Shared family experiences are what most fathers want," says George Carey, the chief executive of The Family Room, a family-focused market research firm, "as opposed to the kind of toys that will put Dad in a different room than their families."
His pick: the Nintendo Wii, which has a range of games that pit users against each other for friendly competition. Target currently has a Wii console pack with baseball, tennis, golf, pool and other attachments for $200, a $15 savings.
More from SmartMoney and MSN Money:
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