CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – As shoppers, men are hopeless, right? They can’t find their way out of a shopping bag or seize on a sale if they stumble into it. Guys simply have none of the evolved shopping skills of the “fairer” sex.
If this fits your stereotype of the male shopper, you aren’t alone, but you also haven’t been paying attention lately. A new study turns the stereotype of the clueless male-in-the-marketplace on its head.
Cele Otnes and Mary Ann McGrath, marketing professors at the University of Illinois and Loyola University, respectively, have found that men often shop purposefully, evaluate alternatives, bargain, shop in so-called “feminine” stores and “sometimes even admit to liking to shop.”
The researchers deconstruct the middle class male shopper. Their investigation of the perceptions and realities of guy shopping behavior not only identifies the three most common stereotypes – “Grab and Go,” “Whine and Wait” and “Fear of the Feminine” – but also leads to a theory.
Rooted in studies of gender roles in the United States, their theory says that “Men who shop have achieved gender role transcendence, and have found ways to satisfy an ethic of achievement in the marketplace.”
Other findings of the study, which was based on questionnaires, interviews and observation, and is the first to focus in-depth on men’s shopping:
* Both genders say they believe men basically want to enter one store, buy one or a few items and leave as quickly as possible – so-called “purchase-driven” behavior related to satisfaction of need.
* These few instances of “Grab and Go” were greatly overshadowed by numerous examples of more deliberate search and purchase, including browsing and bargaining and bargain-hunting.
* No “actual whining” among men in retail settings was observed. Waiting and following, especially among older men accompanying female companions fulfilling their own agendas, was more prevalent.
Male boredom emerges when men feel superfluous on shopping trips; once a man becomes engaged in the process, he feels valued and “enters into the evaluation of merchandise.”
Some men engage in “helping behavior” that enables a woman to complete her shopping more easily.
* Men do embrace “feminine” product categories and stores, and they do so primarily for status, power and control, and “furtherance of intimacy.
Sometimes men become experts in a ‘feminine’ area because they recognize that to do so will help them further a relationship,” the researchers write.
Men shop to win.
Men are motivated to shop deliberately and pragmatically “in order to fulfill one of the most pervasive tenets of the masculine ideal – achievement,” the researchers write.
“While many women ‘shop to love,’ men – or at least men who have transcended the view that shopping is ‘women’s work’ – shop to win.”
Because of this finding, the researchers suggest that retailers “find strategic ways to allow men to feel like winners on their own terms in the marketplace.”