Men just don’t buy any more, they do shop

02 Sep,2013

Kartik Iyer & Shalini Rawla


While men are shopping more, there is still more need to understand this behaviour. Over the next few weeks, as a part of the ‘Marketing to Men’ series, MxMIndia will try and decode how Indian marketers and brands do that


By A Correspondent


The theory that men buy, and women shop did hold truth about five years ago. The oft-quoted Wharton study, ‘Men Buy, Women Shop’ which propagated that men buy stuff as hunters and women as gatherers, is being debunked by men themselves. That the study was commissioned as back as in 2007, is further proof that the researches at Wharton’s Jay H Baker Retail, need to revisit their study. There’s enough proof that if men already haven’t arrived on the shopping spree, they are on their way at least.


Inherently, men have always been the big ticket purchase decision makers. Much of these big ticket purchases are made after research, deliberation and browsing. But when it comes to small ticket buys, like say the daily household needs, men tend to go by the need and rather than the want for it. We are certainly not going down into the history of evolution to decode the genetics of men but there’s enough observation now that if men are left alone and not talked down to by the salesman, they’ll pick up more stuff. That’s where the self-service formats have lent them a helping hand. According to reports, sales data from retail chains like Future Group, Aditya Birla and Spencer’s Retail, male shoppers now account for around 70 per cent of consumers, a number which was merely about 45 per cent four years ago.


As more women are leaving the cave and going into the jungle to hunt, men too are crossing over to don the role of the home-maker, and that does put the basket in their hands to be filled up with daily needs – vegetables, confectionery, bakery and even beauty and personal care products. Given that it’s a new found freedom for men, much of their new category purchases could be based on impulse rather driven by experience or need. Hence, the baskets could often get larger than women.


A recent poll into men and women’s shopping habits by UK-based disability charity, Scope, found that 89 per cent of men have items of clothing that they’ve never worn. Many commentators online view this behaviour as a trait being rubbed on from women.


The three big reasons for buying them in the first place are:

– For special occasions (that never happened)

– Were convinced into buying them, perhaps by a partner (when actually they really didn’t want)

– Bought garments they hoped to slim into


One in four men confessed to being guilty of impulse buying. Men also proved they were as drawn in by sales as women were, with 40 per cent admitting to buying clothes just because they were reduced in price or cheap.


So what’s fuelling this change? The self-service retail formats of course. Add to that better presentation. Marcus Jaye, Creative Director of men’s online style magazine,, commenting on the survey says, “Men’s fashion has become much more experimental and challenging. The shops present it so well, with the window displays and model images, that men are lured into thinking they can replicate that.”


Another study, using a tool, Store Trek, by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), TNS, KiE Square and OgilvyAction, in two hypermarkets across three cities -  Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru – reveals that one in two shoppers is a male; and the affluent male with elastic wallets is buying more on impulse.


Dr Kamaljit Anand, MD of KiE Square in India, says, “Shopper behaviour is changing at a steep pace in India. Newer store formats especially big box modern formats and online shops are driving this change. While the latter make shoppers more adventurous and risk agnostic, the former one is a more engaging story with high stimulus environment for shoppers.”


No wonder that more online stores are focusing on men and with items – apparels and accessories – that traditionally have been the focus of women shopping. Men’s fashion brand, Basics Life, when it went online last year, positioned the store as ‘Shop Like a Man’. The usage of the word ‘shop’ and not ‘buy’ is acknowledgement enough that the man is not buying any more and is looking out for a shopping experience, provided marketers are willing to listen and provide them with their comfort zone.


Kartik Iyer, Chief Executive Officer of Happy Creative Services, Bengaluru, agency that conceived the campaign for says, “The central idea was to promote shopping for men like never before. We latched onto the idea ‘Shop like a man’, working out of the insight that online shopping could only have been invented by man.”


So how are marketers trying to target this new customer? Not that they weren’t consumers. The men have just become customers. Are they willing to give them space? Do they understand men enough to cater to their needs? Shalini Rawla, Managing Consultant at The Key Consumer Diagnostics, says, “While marketers routinely differentiate between men and women as target audience, brand strategies don’t often make this distinction. Does that mean a woman’s floor in a retail store should be all pink and men’s all blue? No. That is typecasting. Trouble is that most brand managers do not know the difference between typecasting and original casting.”


While men are shopping more, there still is more need to understand the sexes and their behaviour. Over the next few weeks, as a part of the ‘Marketing to Men’ series, we at MxMIndia will try and decode how Indian marketers and brands are fuelling this new got freedom – freedom to shop at their convenience – by men and what their strategies are and how is the Indian male responding to them. Is there a difference in expectations amongst the metro man and the small town man or even the rural male. Watch this space.


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