Study gives insight into how men shop
Putnam County resident Jim Smith finds grocery shopping for his family a sometimes daunting task. With both he and his wife working fulltime, he finds himself picking up more household duties like grocery shopping.
Unfortunately, retailers are not doing much to make the trip any easier or more enticing for male shoppers.
"When I'm shopping, if I don't have a written list, then I have a mental one," states Smith. "I look for convenience and price. I generally know exactly what I'm looking for and go get it."
In a recent report titled "Men in Grocery Stores," Mandy Putnam, vice president at the consulting firm TNS Retail Forward, claimed that men shop inefficiently, which leads to missed sales for retailers.
"Many men who have difficulty finding items, forego buying rather than risk purchasing a substitute for the item. They hesitate to ask for help if they can't find an item," Putnam reports.
Smith agrees. "If I can't find it, I call my wife. If she can't tell me where it is or what to substitute for it, I forget about it."
Smith and his family fit the category for the new trend of men doing more of the household shopping. A number of factors contribute to the trend and include men and women marrying later and the rise of households where both husband and wife work.
According to Food Marketing Institute, a trade group for food retailers and wholesalers, "Only one-quarter of American households fall into the old definition of traditional. Unlike women, male shoppers typically focus more on convenience than price, and retailers need to cater to that in order to attract them to their stores."
Unlike women, men tend to hone in on the specific thing they want to buy instead of surveying the entire aisle. That can be a problem for manufacturers and retailers trying to promote new products that are the life-blood of packaged food companies, states Putnam.
"They were great at picking out stuff that they bought before. It's the new stuff, or something new and different that a manufacturer is trying to promote, that they have trouble with," said Putnam, who walked along with men as they shopped as part of her study.
Men also tend to bristle at the overwhelming number of choices in grocery aisles, with the cereal aisle being one prime example, Putnam said.
Multiple choices in same types of cereal, boxes with minor differences and just too many types to choose are part of the issue.
"Too many choices and I go for the basics from my own childhood like cheerio's. I know there is a generic brand but it's too much trouble to work the whole aisle to find it," says Smith. "If my wife is shopping, she will find it, but I don't have the patience to search."
Retailers still refer to their main customer as "she," and with women still doing the majority of the family shopping, a major overhaul of stores to make them more attractive to men, is not likely.
But food retailers in general are focusing more and more on segmentation -- tailoring store offerings to the type of shoppers most likely to shop there or that they want to attract. This strategy could attract more male shoppers.
Smith doesn't think it will make much difference in the way he currently shops. "We only have a few places to shop here and let's face it, Putnam County is pretty traditional. Most men are only doing short runs to the store. I think I'm the exception to the rule generally. But that is changing," he adds.
"Mostly, I just want to get the most amount of quality food for at the lowest price," Smith states."I may have to go to two or even three stores to do that but it's worth it."