Retailers Fail To Cash In on Father's Day

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Father's Day in the retail world usually means unloading ties, steering-wheel covers and electronic gadgets onto frazzled gift givers, but dads really get the same thing every year: second billing.

Father's Day was a $10 billion holiday last year, according to market research firm IBISWorld, and is expected to jump another 4.6%, to $10.8 billion, this year. Fathers will get $1.4 billion worth of clothing, $1.3 billion in gift cards and $2 billion in dinners and trips to the ballgame, but they'll still fall roughly $4.8 billion short of the $14.9 billion in gifts their counterparts get on Mother's Day. Just for a bit of perspective, Mother's Day ranks fourth in holiday spending behind Christmas ($135 billion), Thanksgiving ($30 billion) and Valentine's Day ($17.6 billion). If not for Halloween ($6 billion), Father's Day would be dead last among retail holidays.

Retailers are less creative about Father's Day than they are about Mother's Day, retail analysts say, resulting in a spending gap of $30 to $50 per person since 2007 for the holidays.

Even with retail spending up 8.1% year-to-date over the same period last year, retailers are still loath to leave nearly $5 billion just laying on the table. It's not that retailers have stopped pushing Father's Day purchases or have launched some conspiracy against American patriarchs: They're just not expanding their horizons. While some fathers may appreciate the combined $470 million in automotive accessories and $1.3 million in tools and home improvement products they'll get from Father's Day displays at AutoZone ( AZO), Lowe's ( LOW) and Home Depot ( HD), those gifts are about as exciting as watching oil drain or plaster dry.

"Retailers have been less creative about Father's Day," IBISWorld retail analyst Janet Shim says. "Especially in the last three years during the recession, when people were cutting back on spending overall, they really weren't able to capture that discretionary spending."

There's a little more to go around this year, which has helped retailers get the creative juices flowing. The National Retail Association estimates that the average American will shell out an average of $106.49 on Father's Day gifts, up from $94.32 last year. As a result, such companies as 1-800-Flowers ( FLWS) have begun offering Father's Day gifts baskets of barbecue and movie items to help get a piece of Mother's Day's $1.3 billion in floral spending.

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