What men want - in the supermarket
Like other men he sees shopping in supermarkets, Doug Fleener often doesn't grab a cart or hand basket when he hurries into the store for just a few items. Yet invariably, by the time he reaches the dairy section, his arms are full of impulse purchases. He needs a basket, but they're all at the front of the store. Why, he wonders, don't managers place them at the back as well?Skip to next paragraph
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"Supermarkets don't think like men," says Mr. Fleener, president of Dynamic Experiences Group, a retail consulting firm in Lexington, Mass., and a frequent shopper for his own family.
Supermarket managers of America, pull up a chair and lend an ear. Some of your regular customers - men - would like to have a word with you. As more of them, married and single, shop for food, they wish you would make your stores more "man-friendly."
Sixty-one percent of men now do at least some grocery shopping, according to new research by WSL Strategic Retail in New York. Two years ago that figure stood at 41 percent. Men are staying single longer, researchers note, and more two-career couples are sharing domestic responsibilities. Retired men are also shopping for food in greater numbers as the ranks of older consumers increase. More male supermarket shoppers are over 55 than under 35.
Yet supermarkets continue to see themselves as largely the domain of women. "Our core shopper is still a female," says Craig Mucklo, a spokesman for Safeway. "Most of the things we do cater to women." But he acknowledges that a lot of men are "buying more than just milk, butter, eggs."
Male behavior in supermarkets is "very different" from female behavior, says Phil Lempert, founder of supermarketguru.com. In some ways, the clichés about male shoppers are true: Men are much more likely to buy a product on impulse than women are. They're more likely to buy in bulk and to purchase items on sale. They also show less loyalty to a particular store.
Although only a quarter of men use grocery lists when they shop, compared with three-quarters of women, some keep mental tallies of what they do and don't like about supermarkets. In a random sampling of male supermarket shoppers around the country, opinions poured forth in impressive numbers.
Heading the list of annoyances for many is waiting in line to check out. More cashiers, please, they say.
To which store managers might respond, Step right up to our efficient self-service lane. But before managers get too enamored with technology, they should know that some men, even those who are technically savvy, still prefer to have a real person ring up their order.
Ryan Gerding of Kansas City, Mo., is among the many men who find self-service checkout systems "incredibly annoying," noting that the few he has used have rarely worked correctly. "They either require you to rescan items or to get some kind of override from a store employee."
Echoing that complaint, Chris Falk of Washington, D.C., adds, "I've waited for [another customer] to slowly go through screen after screen of produce items to locate the kiwis they want to purchase."
Some men also balk at discount cards that give sale prices to card holders. Tim Kaldahl of Omaha, Neb., who does the shopping and cooking for his family, avoids stores that use them.
Brian Galloway, a computer security manager in Dublin, Ohio, argues that the cards are a "tremendous frustration" because they levy a "privacy tax" on customers. "I believe the whole purpose of the savings card is to generate information the store can sell," says Mr. Galloway, who is single and shops once or twice a week. "Some of these cards want you to give your e-mail address and phone number." He pays with cash to preserve his anonymity.