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Men VS Women: How We Shop
Guest Author, Jim Foster - All Rights Reserved


Excluding grocery shopping, how many of you LOVE to shop? Statistically it is mostly women who say they ‘love to shop’. I would like to take the next few minutes describing just a few of the differences between the men and women shoppers. Really just scratching the surface of what is very much a study of human behavior.

There are many companies that observe the shopping habits of consumers in very great detail and analyze the information to give retailers a better idea of changes they can make to draw more customers in, to make them stay longer and see more product as well as influence their buying decisions and get them to return time after time. It is amazing how detailed the information for each customer is.

This information is gathered either through video surveillance or one on one observation. This information is gathered without interrupting your shopping trip and without your knowledge. Many books have been written on this subject. One of the books I have used in the past is ‘Why We BUY, the Science of Shopping’. It is an excellent book, full of every day examples and common sense recommendations.

About Jim Foster

 Jim has been on retail the floor for many years, coaching unit managers through a wide range of business challenges.

Jim has a forte for translating broad corporate policy into tangible results, through motivational coaching and leadership. Over the years he has worked in highly successful units, and coached many units through business recovery.

Working for several retailers over the years, in various parts of Canada, Jim has had the up-close-and-personal experience with shoppers from all walks of life. He has learned to see a store from a customers point of view and uses that to drive sales.

Jim is currently working as a District Manager in the video industry.

What type of information do these companies gather? How did you arrive at the location? If you drove, where did you park? What is your approximate age? What is your gender? Who was with you? What is their approximate age and gender? How many steps did you take inside the store before you paused to look around? What did you look at first? Did you take a shopping cart or basket? What aisle did you start with? Where did you stop to look at product? Did you check price, quality, and color? How long did you look at it? Did you buy it?

The list goes on and on. The observations continue throughout the store until you leave or become aware you are being observed. If you become aware you are being observed it may change your shopping habits so the information gathered will not be as accurate. These observations are then reviewed and analyzed to come up with strategies to help retailers make plans for future changes improve your shopping experience, make you want to return more frequently and ultimately spend more money per visit. It has become very apparent from these studies that men and women do shop very differently.


Men look on shopping as a mission. Their Commander gives them an assignment. They locate the target. They secure the target. They make payment and exit the location as quickly as possible, with little or no contact with store personnel. They report back to the Commander. Mission accomplished! Grab a beer and celebrate!

Men generally shop alone. Men seldom compare prices. Men don’t care if the item is on sale. Men really don’t care about the color. Men sometimes compare quality, but usually only when it involves tools.

Honestly guys, how many times have you gone shopping for clothes and come home with yet another tie or shirt that a sharp sales person flattered you into buying because it ‘brought out the color of your eyes’ or was just the right shade to compliment the pants you were purchasing’?

Men generally don’t take men friends with them shopping. Most of us really don’t want Ted advising us that ‘Jim. That is the perfect color on you’ or ‘Jim; those pants fit you nicely and make you look thin’.


Women on the other hand, look on shopping as a social event and love to bring their girl friends along. They enjoy taking several outfits into the dressing room to try on. All outfits may be the same style, cut and size but they are different colors and women love to try every one on and have their friends critique them in each one. Women tend to compare their choices in greater detail. Price, quality, feel and whether their friends like it on them. Many times women will spend all day looking at several items in different stores and still not buy anything. (That may actually be one man’s dream, that my wife will shop all day and not spend a dime!) Women prefer to go shopping with girl friends rather than spouses. (Again that may just be a dream of mine, that my wife will take someone else shopping and leave me at home to watch the ball game on TV.)

What can companies do with all this information gathered through observation of shopping habits? Successful companies analyze the information and use the results to make changes in their product mix or layouts to make it a more pleasing shopping experience for all shoppers, regardless of gender.

Have you ever noticed the nice, soft armchairs most of the major malls provide at strategic locations throughout the mall? I doubt they were put there for kids to play on or for women to stack their purchases on. No, they were put there so men would have somewhere to do what men do best. Sit and relax while their wives do the shopping. These chairs give men somewhere to sit and wait for their spouses as well as meet other men who are waiting for their spouses and complain to the other men about missing the game because they had to come shopping.

What happened to Canadian Tire? It used to be a man’s haven with car parts, car accessories, tires and tools. Now, just as they have been advertising for years, it is more than just tires. Tools, tires, car parts and car accessories have given way to painting and decorating, seasonal departments and small appliances, front and centre as you enter the store. Is this because these products have become more appealing to men? No, it is a conscious effort to make women shoppers comfortable in the store and now they too will spend more time and more each visit.

Home Depot used to be another man’s haven. Now when you enter, what do you see? You see paint and decorating, seasonal, seminars on ‘how to’, and major appliances. Is this because men kept asking ‘why can’t I buy a stove here’, or ‘gee, I wish someone could teach me to faux finish that living room wall’? I don’t think so. Home Depot, like Canadian Tire, made a conscious business decision to make some dramatic changes to their formats and product lines to include both sexes and make the shopping experience more enjoyable, influencing you to spend more time and money per visit in their locations. Judging from the financial success of both companies in the past few years, it is definitely working for them.

I would like to tell a short story to illustrate what I mean about different shopping habits of men and women. This may be something you have observed while shopping at the grocery store.

A woman, shopping alone, walks up to the cooler filled with hamburger. She picks up the first package of hamburger. She checks the weight, the price and the quality. She puts it back and chooses another package. She checks the weight, the price and the quality. She puts it back. She picks up another package and follows the same steps.

At the same time, a man and a woman come by with a baby in their shopping cart. The man goes over to the hamburger cooler and chooses a package of hamburger. He checks the weight, the price and the quality. He puts it back and chooses another. He checks the weight, the price and the quality. He is satisfied and returns it to their shopping cart. His wife looks at the hamburger and immediately takes it back to the cooler. She shakes her head, picks up another package and checks the weight, the price and the quality. Not good enough, so she chooses another. She checks the weight, the price and the quality.

Meanwhile, a man, shopping alone, walks up to the hamburger cooler. He chooses a package. He checks the weight, the price and the quality. He smiles and puts it into his shopping cart and leaves.

The second woman has also finally found a package suitable for her family and returns to her shopping cart and shows her husband.
Finally, after checking the weight, the price and the quality of every package in the cooler, the first woman makes her decision and puts the package in her shopping cart. Of course, yes guys, we all suspect it is the first package she picked up is the beginning!
Yes, men and women do have very different shopping habits.

In conclusion, it is very apparent from the many studies that have been published, that men and women do shop very differently. For most men shopping is a mission. For most women shopping is definitely a social event. Those companies that know this and create a shopping experience that includes both shopping types will be successful, now and into the future as their customers will return time and again to spend money in an environment that they enjoy, feel comfortable and welcome.

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