Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fathers Are Shoppers, Too

A series of events this past weekend nicely illustrated a “quiet revolution” that is taking place in supermarkets across America. Let's call it the FAST! Movement (Fathers Are Shoppers, Too!).

My wife and I have a 13-month-old son, who, like many 13-month-olds, loves bubbles in his bath. We did not actually have a bubble bath product, so we were using soap and some aggressive sloshing in the water. So, this weekend we decided to buy actual bubble bath.

My wife got to the baby aisle in the grocery store before me, so when I approached her, she already had two bottles of bubble bath in her hand. “Which one should we get?” she asked.

I could not have staged this better myself.

Earlier that week, NFI president Roland Warren and I had a conversation with the real-life guy at Johnson & Johnson who was literally responsible for bringing a baby bubble bath product to the company! As a dad, he knew that bath time was one of those activities that dads often enjoy with their children, and that bubble bath makes it an especially fun time. However, bubble baths can be very harsh, and may even lead to urinary tract infections if used too often. So, he directed J&J to develop a product that is both fun and mild enough for every day use.

Armed with this 'insider' knowledge, I suggested to my wife that we get the J&J brand, given that I had heard directly from the company – I really did! – about how great it is. We found J&J’s pretty, blue bottle of baby bubble bath on the shelf, placed it in the cart, and it is now part of our routine with our little one.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that this small transaction is indicative of what is happening in families all over the country. There is an oft-cited statistic that women make 85% of household purchasing decisions. The problem with this stat is that no one knows where it came from. Furthermore, new data, whose source is actually known, suggests that men have become much more involved in what families buy. Specifically:
  • One-third of men (33%) are the primary shopper in the home
  • 7 in 10 dads disagree that mom does most of the shopping for the kids
  • Dads control purchasing decisions in home electronics, travel, sporting goods, and entertainment options
  • Dads are considerably more likely than moms to be asked for advice on a purchase.*
This data paints a very different, more nuanced picture than the one painted by “women control 85% of household purchase decisions.”

Now, let’s not get carried away. Moms still do quite a bit of shopping – more still than dads do. But the point is that things are changing, they are changing rapidly, and now, more than ever, moms are not making decisions in a vacuum (or about vacuums for that matter!). Even when mom makes the actual purchase, like my wife often does, she makes it in consultation with dad – he is a “key influencer.”

This should make perfect sense. Moms may want to control the purchase decision, but they also want to nurture their families, which involves getting, not ignoring, their input on what she should buy for them.

This presents a huge opportunity for marketers - they can capitalize on the shift in how families make purchases. Even with the new research available, many marketers are acting as though nothing has changed in the last 30 years; thus, they still almost exclusively make their pitches to moms. Why not include dads, too? Companies that can stay ahead of the curve on this (like J&J) could grab significant market share from their competitors who are still stuck in what we feel is an outdated model.

Dads - are you part of the FAST! Movement? Do you do much or most of the shopping in your family?

Editor’s note: NFI can help you figure out how to reach dads – we have been doing it for 17 years. Contact Vince DiCaro at for more information.

*All research taken from "Marketing to Dads - US - August 2010." Mintel.


  1. Very interesting article. When I was married I made a lot of the purchases, or was consulted with by my ex-wife. Now as a divorced Father - with the kids spending 50 percent of their time with me - which is beoming the norm - I make all the purchase decisions in my house and the home my kids spend half their life in.

    the 85 percent figure is like many figures that have no science behind it but rather just been accepted. One big myth is that domestic violence increases during superbowls ..

  2. Very useful article. By the way here in the UK the Fatherhood Institute did a piece of research for one of the online supermarkets here (Ocado). You can read the report here It looks at dads' attitudes towards parental leave and other aspects of 'domestic life', and draws on some evidence about what dads do around the house, in the kitchen etc. Over here the big supermarkets are just starting to understand that dads are purchasers too. Check out the Sainsbury's ad on my blog!


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