When it comes to important household spending decisions, the question of who buys the pants isn’t as simple as it first appears. Rather, the question should be who spends the most time and money selecting them.
Increasingly, it is men, and not just when seeking a pair of slacks. Men are outpacing women in several behavioral categories when it comes not only to apparel shopping, but also to the grocery aisle. And where they are not outpacing women, they are narrowing the gap.
From list preparation to bargain hunting, men are increasingly displaying the qualities many retailers may equate with the traditional female shopper, to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The average male spends nearly $300 a month just on groceries, and $85 a month on apparel. Both figures exceed these metrics for women.
Yet it seems in many ways, the male consumer is still misunderstood. In truth, male and female consumers have one important factor in common when making purchase decisions: They are often based on habit. If retailers want to get a leg up on this valuable market, they have to learn the average man’s passage to purchase — regardless of whether he is buying pants or produce.
Following are six male shopping habits that men wish retailers would pick up on. (Hint: Real men use coupons and sales staff.)
They Outspend Women
When it comes to apparel, men outspend women by about $10 a month, or 13%, according to “The Boutique @Ogilvy 2016 Men’s Shopping Report.” Ogilvy predicts the menswear market will grow by 8.3% in 2017, to $110.3 billion, outpacing growth of the women’s wear market, which is projected to be 4.2%. Apparel retailers looking to improve sales could benefit not only from well-placed displays of men’s apparel (not always in the men’s clothing section), but also by targeting men more specifically. Lululemon, known first for its women’s yoga gear, began targeting men a couple years ago and now expects this segment to eventually generate 40% of it sales internationally.
They Bring A List
More than half of surveyed men (52%) said they write up a list before hitting the grocery store, according to research by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Yet just 42% of men actually take inventory of their needs before making that list. A similar discrepancy exists among women, who are more likely to do both. Retailers can assist male shoppers using loyalty purchase data and similar membership programs. The Kroger Co. offers its shoppers digital shopping lists that connect with digital shelf technology, enabling users to locate in the store the items on their lists (a leading request among male shoppers).
They Listen To Sales Staff
They may not like asking for directions, but more than a quarter of men younger than 35 (27%) are influenced by the sales staff when making clothing purchases, according to Ogilvy. That compares with just 18% of men older than 35. The explanation may be that the younger group wants to look neat and stylish — for professional and romantic conquests — but lacks the confidence to pull it off. The Toronto menswear shop Gotstyle addresses this perceived need with a makeover service called “It’s a Match.” The goal: help men look terrific on their dating profiles and in person.
They Bargain Hunt
When preparing for the grocery store, four in 10 men (41%) said they collect and bring coupons and 49% peruse circulars, according to the FMI research. Men also seek value in their clothing purchases. More than half of men surveyed (53%) said they are persuaded by value when it comes to in-person apparel decisions, and 26% said they shop for clothes due to promotions, according to the Ogilvy report. The lesson here is to make couponing easy and fun. Emailed coupons likely have a higher chance of redemption, since they can be stored on a smartphone.
Men are more likely than women to shop the club-store, convenience and online channels, according to research by the Hartman Group. You might think this is because these environments enable men to purchase what they want quickly and with little thought. But let’s consider the model at Costco, which many men love to shop. The club-store chain intentionally makes shopping its big stores an adventure by regularly moving its merchandise around and by limiting its aisle signs, so shoppers are required to explore. The more time consumers spend cruising through the store, the more likely they are to spend.
They’re Fast, But Not As Fast As You Think
Men who describe grocery shopping as a chore still spend, on average, 56 minutes in the supermarket. That compares with an hour for men and women who enjoy it, according to research by NPD Group. When it comes to apparel, men linger even longer. A 2015 survey by Budget Sense reports that men spend 30 minutes more time apparel shopping per week than women — three hours compared with 2.5 hours.
All of this is to say that there’s no point in skirting the question of which gender is of greater value, because the answer is both. Retail behaviors are predicated on broader influences, from profession to the region one lives in.
The key to making coupons, staff and store layouts work is personal relevance. And that is a human understanding retailers need to put on one leg at a time.