Men are from Sears; Women are from the mall: Stockpiling, shopping, and gender
I went shopping with my husband the other day. This was a rare occurrence, the sort of thing that happens with the same frequency as the passing of Halley's Comet. He needed jeans and casual shirts to replace the fraying college sweatshirt he insists on dragging out during weekends, so to the Gap Outlet we went.
Once we arrived, I meandered over to a tantalizing display of cable-knit sweaters while he strode purposefully towards the men's wear. A mere ten minutes later he had finished, and victoriously marched towards the register with an armload of identical crewnecks in multiple colors and a single pair of jeans. I, on the other hand, was still considering a red cardigan, black tights, leopard ballet flats, a gold belt, grey jeans, two long-sleeved tees and a pile of socks.
Back in December, the New York Times examined the shopping habits of men, and came to the conclusion that men stockpile and women shop. The article profiled sixteen men, some of whom are employed in the fashion industry as designers, style bloggers and magazine editors, and described their buying habits. Designer Billy Reid confessed to buying "three or four" pairs of identical Levis at a time. Gabe Schulman, contributor to Thestyleblogger, explained that he loved the cut of a particular pair of pants so much that he bought four identical pairs. And tattoo artist Scott Campbell told of his infatuation with plain old black Gold Toe socks, of which he purchases in bulk.
When I shop, I'm perfectly content to meander through sprawling displays or detour through the shoe department. I give little thought to stopping at a cosmetics counter for a quick spray of perfume before, maybe, making a purchase. In contrast, Wharton Business School research has discovered that men regard shopping as a mission and are much less inclined to browse and wander. In general, men intend to buy a targeted item and flee the store as quickly as possible.
In a study titled, "Men Buy, Women Shop," researchers at Wharton's Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm, found that men are more likely to respond to more utilitarian aspects of the shopping experience than women are - such as the availability of parking, whether the item they came for is in stock, and the length of the checkout line. However, Women place more value on the attention of customer sales associates, and whether associates are readily available to help when needed.
One female shopper between the ages of 18 and 35 told the researchers: "I love shopping. I love shopping even when I have a deadline. I just love shopping." Compare that to this response from a male in the same age group who described how men approach retailing: "We're going to this store and we buy it and we leave because we want to do something else."
I believe most men shop like they're smartbombs dropped from F-22's. They're tactical. They have lists. If they walk into a mall, they usually know exactly where they're going and what they're buying. They are concerned with durability and comfort because if the item lasts, they can shop less often. These men generally don't pay attention to what's trendy. They don't go from store to store to store. They don't wander aimlessly. They want to get in, buy what they need, and get out.That's it.
This utilitarian shopping philosophy easily explains the tendency of some men to stockpile favorite pieces. However, I also know women who dread going shopping, and negotiate the need for new clothes with both online ordering and purchasing multiple pieces of the same item in different colors. The tricky fit of certain pieces, such as jeans and undergarments, may also encourage a shopper of either gender to stockpile. My own stockpile of J Brand jeans is a testament to my preference towards their fit.
The Times article led me to wonder if gender differences in shopping habits really are as concrete as the piece suggests. Do you consider yourself a stockpiler when it comes to shopping? Do you prefer to wander and browse, or are you focused on buying what you need and leaving when finished?