What Men Want

By Mike Scott, Gift Shop Magazine, 4/25/2007

Men and shopping. Think the two don’t go together? Think again! More than ever, men are now shopping for themselves. With the market for men’s products set to grow to $6.7 trillion by 2009 there’s never been a better reason to pay attention to the male shopper. GIFT SHOP takes a look at the numbers and visits with retailers who are cashing in by reaching out to guys.

Sure, word on the retail floor might be that men and shopping don’t mix, but Candace Corlett, principal of WSL Strategic Retail, a retail strategy consulting firm in New York City, says its time to debunk that myth. A recent report published by her company found that innovative gift shops that cater to men, especially young men, with a comprehensive array of services are doing astonishingly well, and that they compose one of the fastest-growing segments in gift retail today.

“We have a generation of men around 18 to 35 who grew up in a household with a working mom, and now are dating or married to working women, who have been buying items for themselves for years,” Corlett says. “But many retailers still view that male shopper as the guy sitting outside the dressing room waiting for their spouse to finish trying on clothes.”

While this feature concentrates primarily on men shopping for themselves, Doug Fleener, president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group, a retail-consulting firm based in Lexington, MA, says retailers could use a few tips selling to guys buying products both for themselves and others.

Fleener encourages retailers to get their products into men’s hands as much as possible. “The best way to sell [to] a guy is to physically engage him with the product. Get it into his hands. Whatever it does, have the guy doing it,” he says.

On the other hand, Fleener says, if a guy is buying something for the woman in his life, the experience is completely different. “We have one goal: get it bought. Whether it’s a present for the wife or a quick trip to the store with our given list, we don’t want control,” he says. “We don’t like small talk; we want to be told what to buy. We don’t want choices, we want suggestions.”

Corlett agrees. Men have distinctly different buying patterns than the majority of female shoppers; they don’t enjoy browsing for long periods of time, or “hunting and pecking” for items, she says. “Men want to make quick decisions and be in and out of a store,” she says.

Corlett says this means that sales associates and owners of gift shops should be more attuned to the needs of men and understand that while they are less likely to ask for help, they often are more in need of answers to one or more questions.

“Men are largely afraid to ask a question, so it is important for a [retailer] to approach them and put them into their own comfort zone, so that those men will have a positive shopping experience,” Corlett says.

Fleener’s advice? Train employees to promptly assess the guy’s shopping needs and to make product recommendations. “The faster the buying process is, the happier the guy will be,” he says. Fleener points out that men buying for others are also open to suggestions for add-on items that can increase your sales.

Mike Scott is a freelance writer who has contributed to more than 80 national and local publications. He lives in White Lake, MI.

Facts at a Glance

The U.S. market for men’s goods (including apparel, accessories, durable goods such as televisions etc.) is projected to increase from $5.4 trillion in 2004 to $6.7 trillion in 2009. This represents a cumulative growth of 24.6 percent.

  • American men in the Generation X bracket (usually defined as those born between 1963-1978) accounted for the largest single segment of the men’s market and a controlled aggregate buying power of more than $1.5 trillion.
  • American men are getting more involved in purchases for themselves. In 2003 women were responsible for only 30% of men’s apparel purchases, compared to 52% in 1998 and 60% in 1985.**

Credit: Packaged Facts, a division of Marketresearch.com
** NPD Group