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Hunters and Gatherers

Women shop, men buy; and why.

Men, women and shopping; so little new to know. Or is there? Well, there just might be one or two interesting tidbits about the topic, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™. Not particularly shocking is the fact that women surpass men in average time spent buying clothes. Female respondents spent an average 101.7 minutes a month shopping for apparel in the last quarter of 2005 while male respondents indicated that they spent an average 58.9 minutes on the same activity.

“Frankly, I’m surprised that it’s even that close,” quips Stefani Greenfield, co-owner of the stylish coterie of Scoop NYC boutiques. But don’t be quick to think that she means that all men are disinterested in buying clothing. “It’s not that men care less, it’s just that they shop less. They don’t want to be perceived as having spent too much time on their wardrobes.”

Before heaping praise on men for their efficiency at the register, take heed. When the average number of times each gender ventured forth to shop for apparel is factored in, men and women are nearly dead even on the time spent on their respective shopping jaunts. According to the Monitor, male respondents shopped 1.43 times per month on average; female respondents shopped 2.34 times, bringing the typical shopping trip for either gender to just over 40 minutes, each.

Best Describes Apparel
Shopping 05Q4
  MaleFemale
Love Shopping8.2%27.2%
Like Shopping15.4%26.2%
Don’t Mind14.1%13.0%
Get What I Need55.1%26.4%
Do Not Like7.2%7.1%

“Women are definitely the alpha when it comes to shopping,” states Annette McEvoy, a specialty retail consultant.”We are still the gatherers; we shop for ourselves, our spouses, our children and for gifts and so on. That’s a key factor in why we shop more often in any given period.”

However, on average, women do enjoy shopping more, according to data from the Monitor. Much, much more. More than one in two female respondents stated that they like or love shopping, compared to a not-so-surprising one in five male respondents making the same claim. Men were far more likely to indicate that when it comes to apparel shopping, they “get what they need”; more than one in two male respondents offered up this assessment compared with one in four female respondents who responded similarly.

It could well be that women enjoy shopping more than men do because there are simply more options for women when it comes to apparel. The list is seemingly infinite with dresses, skirts, tops, shorts, suits, accessories, pants, skirts and the dizzying subsets of each category.

“There is an abundance of choice for women in absolutely every category of apparel, which makes things more exciting. In the category of pants alone, there’s the trouser, wide leg, boot cut, capri, low-rise, peg, gaucho, cigarette and on and on,” explains Linda DeFranco, a senior product trend analyst with Cotton Incorporated. “Women know the differences in what’s being offered and we know what works really well for us, so it’s easy to try and find something new and enjoy the shopping process.”

Paige Adams-Geller, a former fit model and founder of Paige Premium Denim, a popular line of premium jeans, readily admits that there is often a wide chasm in apparel options for men compared to those available to the so-called fairer sex. “I can see it shopping with my husband and stepson; they both want jeans that are stylish but not too urban or overly trendy and still provide a great fit and ease of wear like you find in the women’s market. Even in denim, they were still limited as to what they could buy,” the designer shares. “That’s why I started Paige Premium Denim for men; so they would have these same options in jeans like women do.” That’s both a thoughtful and strategic business move, considering that seven in ten men confided to Monitor that jeans were their first pick for casual wear.

If women enjoy a wide breadth of product, men appear to take great comfort in owning it in depth. “In our store, I see men come in, try on a pair of jeans and when they like it, they buy it in every wash. They’re done,” Adams-Geller continues. Greenfield from Scoop NYC, who also sells Paige Denim for both genders in addition to a variety of must-have labels, concurs. “When men find what they like, they buy it in multiples.” This theory bears out in data from the Monitor, which shows that in an average month, men spent $74.58 to the fairly comparable $77.68 that women spent, indicating that men spend more on their average trip, $52.15 to a woman’s $31.97. However, women remain the chief gatherers in the apparel market, partly since they have more apparel options and partly because more women shop more often, as compared to men.

Greenfield also asserts that men are likely to enjoy shopping online where they can easily browse and click on for the multiples they seem to purchase. According to the Monitor, web browsing for apparel is at an all-time high for men and they are closing the gap on women. 42.7% of female respondents and 33.7% of male respondents stated that they browsed the web for apparel. While there, they idled a bit longer; females spent 95.6 minutes compared to males, who spent 85 minutes, which is also a record amount of time spent.

As things stand, with an increased breadth of product and more availability on the web and men may just start making a few more “clothes calls” like women!

This story is one in a series of articles based on findings from Cotton Incorporated’s Lifestyle Monitor™ tracking research. Appearing Thursdays in these pages, each story will focus on a specific topic as it relates to the American consumer and her attitudes and behavior regarding clothing, appearance, fashion, fiber selection and many other timely, relevant subjects.