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Man, Were We Wrong

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Women control 80 percent or more of spending, right? Wrong!

Despite the fact that it’s been a generally accepted statistic for as many decades as I’ve been writing about retailing, several recent surveys suggest that men have a nearly equal say these days on spending. And, as it turns out, industry experts are hard-pressed to definitively corroborate the 80 percent statistic — let alone trace its origin.

Aside from the fact that I’m ashamed of myself for glibly passing along this bit of folklore for so many years, I wonder if retailers pay any attention to research about who controls the purse strings. After all, if they’re tapping the business intelligence and predictive analytics tools many have in place, they should already have a pretty solid view of who’s shopping in their stores and what they’re buying.

Furthermore, the very notion of what constitutes a household has been radically evolving for decades. Yes, more men are shopping than ever before; they’re also sharing child-rearing responsibilities and occupying more seats at the local PTA meeting. Is this really news to anyone? Let’s face it; any retailer still harboring a “Brady Bunch” view of household dynamics won’t be around much longer.

At my house, I continue to do most of the shopping (probably about 75 percent), but I can count on my husband to step up to the plate for some of the supermarket shopping and nearly all “warehouse” runs. I think I could get him to increase his efforts if there were more retailers who indulged his penchant for playing with technology.

Case in point: Stop & Shop. The store closest to us allows the shopper to use a handheld scanner as he shops, then hand over the device at checkout, pay and go. Whenever my husband shops there, he uses the scanner; he loves the darned thing and has deemed it “smart and efficient.”

I’m not quite as enamored; I tend to be the one tossing things in the cart at record speed and huffing in exasperation as I queue up in the checkout line. I’ve tried using the scanner, but old habits are hard to break. To be honest, I’ve forgotten to scan a few items on occasion. Then I’m foraging through the bags trying to determine what I missed in an effort to elude jail time over a jar of purloined peanut butter.

The lesson here is simple: Know who’s shopping in your stores. It’s not the same mix of shoppers it was five years ago — or even two years ago. And pay attention to the shopping experience; it needs to be in sync with the changing dynamics of the shopper.

Oh and on a personal note: If the execs at Macy’s could create a smartphone app that mimicked the Stop & Shop scanner, I would be a very happy woman.