It used to be true that when Father’s Day and graduation season rolled around, there was a slew of news stories about the “must have” gift of the year.  That may be true this year, but it’s for a much different reason.  The majority of today’s revenue-bleeding media entities (especially major metropolitan dailies) don’t have the resources to throw behind gift guide gathering. Instead, they’ll syndicate wire service or blog coverage and leave it at that.  I don’t blame them, it’s one of PR’s most obvious recycled storylines. 

However, this year the playing field has changed.  Apple and Palm both released new gadgets this month and consumers have therefore been bombarded with the latest and greatest in mobile technology on the eve of Father’s Day.  Before the days of the smartphone wars, would you ever have considered buying your dad a cell phone? 

These media-heavy events have other consumer electronics companies running back to the drawing board to craft attention-grabbing pitches before the holiday comes and goes.  With all the high tech gadgetry vying for dad’s attention, you could almost forget that the consumers are as cash-strapped as aforementioned newspapers.

Before this season, you might assume that with less cash to burn this Father’s Day, shoppers would stay away from fancy electronics. A study from the National Retail Federation suggests that consumer electronics companies can rest assured that our passion for gadgets hasn’t faded with our shrinking wallets, as long as the price point stays below the $90 mark.  "Budget-friendly for dad" therefore seems to be a message CE companies can stand by in 2009.

The NRF study goes on to estimate that this year’s Dad’s Day shopper will spend an average of $90.89 on gifts, down slightly from $94.54 last year.  The biggest chunk of overall consumer spending ($1.9 billion) falls into the “special outings” categories.  New socks and spiffy ties are a near second, with clothing accounting for $1.3 billion. Others will choose to express their appreciation with a card ($1.2 billion). As for consumer electronics?  Those like Apple and Palm (read: not below $90) rank among their peers in the fourth spot on the list, still coming in above books, CDs and sporting goods. 

Not sure what’s on dad’s wish list?  Luckily, there are a few gadget gurus standing to point you in the right direction before Sunday.  Check out this Father's Day gift guide from NetworkWorld.  (Specifically where Greenough client Shure is included as the perfect gift for Rockin’ Dads)

– Contributed by Allie O’Connell