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Last-minute Christmas shopping: is it a guy thing?

Last-minute Christmas shoppers packed stores Thursday. Surveys suggest the procrastinators are more likely to be men – and evolution may offer an explanation.

By Michael B. FarrellStaff writer / December 24, 2009

A man carries purchases to his car during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in Omaha, Neb.

Nati Harnik/AP

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The eleventh-hour hunt for the perfect gift – or anything that fits – can be a retail battleground pitting panicky procrastinators against seasoned bargain-hunters. But what drives this last-minute holiday mayhem?

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Retail watchers say the economy has caused more shoppers to delay. To be sure, there are bargains aplenty for latecomers: up to 60 percent off at some Gap, 70 stores percent off at some Foot Lockers. Stores are staying open late, too, offering last-minute deals. Many Walgreens outlets will keep their lights on until midnight on Christmas Eve in hopes of cashing in on procrastination. And early reports suggest there is a late Christmas sales surge.

But is the Christmas Eve mad dash a guy thing, too?

The National Retail Federal found that more men have put off shopping this year than women. A recent survey showed that 21.4 percent of the men hadn’t even started Christmas shopping by Dec. 9 compared with 17 percent of women.

In many shopping malls, salespeople agree that men represent most of the seasonal stragglers. “They're just coming in, they're getting a gift certificate ... because they save it for the very last day,” a saleswoman in Rochester, N.Y., told a local reporter.

A University of Michigan study released earlier this month suggests evolution may be to blame.

Typically, women’s shopping habit are informed by skills once used as gatherers, theorizes Daniel Kruger, research faculty at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Men, he says, shop like hunters.

“The sexually divergent adaptations for gathering and hunting may be evident in reports of shopping experiences, as shopping could be considered a form of foraging in the modern consumer environment...,” the study says. “Men, in turn, will report shopping strategies and experiences that resemble hunting skills.”

That explains why women often spend more time shopping – looking for just the right item – while men are more hurried, Mr. Kruger says.

In Canada, a retail poll found that men are 50 percent more likely to put off shopping.

“I'm pretty lazy,” one man told Toronto’s CTV. “I'm a man, that's how we do it.”

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