On a recent shopping trip to the mall, the very happily-married JoAnne and Nick did what they always do; they separated and independently explored their individual passions. JoAnne set her sights on the latest and greatest in apparel while Nick looked to test the newest high-tech gadget.
"JoAnne makes fun of me for how much time I spend researching the latest plasma television or cell phone, but she spends just as much time and effort finding the right pair of jeans," shares Nick. "It just comes down to finding what you really want."
What women and men really want, as exemplified by our aforementioned happy couple, is clothing and electronics, respectively. According to the Cotton Incorporated's Lifestyle Monitor™, when asked their favorite item to shop for, 50% of female respondents stated clothing and 44% of male respondents chose home electronics. While the two sectors may have little in common at first glance, the shopping processes are remarkably similar.
"In searching for their respective passions, both men and women want products that will ultimately make them look good," observes Jade Riggin, a spokesperson for Renegade Marketing, a consultantcy based in New York. "When women use clothes as a physical expression of their style, jeans become an essential indication of their personalities and they want denim that flatters them in the best possible way. Men use consumer electronics in a similar way; what brands and types of electronic accessories they choose indicate their own personal style."
"I almost think of this scenario as a question on the SAT where one could say men are to electronics as women are to jeans," hypothesizes Stefani Greenfield, a co-owner of Scoop NYC, a line of super-chic boutiques. "Our objects of desire run parallel."
"In general, men are picky about the gadgets they buy and women want the best look for the best price," concurs Juanita Fields, Fashion Director for Sears, a destination for those in search of both clothing and consumer electronics.
There are many similarities to the ways women and men search for their objects of desire. "If you correlate precise fit to cutting edge technology, you can definitely see the parallel in shopping experiences. A woman will try on dozens of pairs of jeans to find that great fit; while a man will experiment with many different versions of an electronic good until he finds the one that is exactly tricked out to his needs," tells Claire Dupuis, a senior trend forecaster with Cotton Incorporated.Another common element is the fast-paced evolution of both sectors. "Women will always be on an endless quest for that great pair of jeans because the denim industry keeps evolving and growing," tells Sean Krebs, style expert for Gap. "Women never have to settle for jeans they don't love." And they certainly do love their denim, according to the Monitor. Nearly two out of three respondents stated that they prefer to wear jeans over casual slacks and that they are opting to wear these jeans an average of 3.77 days, or just over half of any given week.
What is Your Favorite Item to Shop For?
Such ubiquity of wear and use is certainly another similarity both the denim and technology markets share. While jeans are almost universally acceptable for the lion's share of occasions and situations, camera phones, MP3 players and gadgets with wireless internet connections are equally commonplace in today's society. "Denim and technology are facts of life in 2006," Dupuis from Cotton Incorporated states. "There's no getting around either."Straight-forward explanations and detailed descriptions of items in both categories are another commonality. "Just like you see gadgets with model numbers and a catalog of the item's features at retail, today you also see models of jeans with exact descriptions of low to mid-rise, boot or flare cut, or extra long or regular, so you pretty much know exactly what you are trying on," explains Kimberly Canzani, director of marketing for Manhattan Mall, located in New York's famed Herald Square. "It makes the process both easy and more enjoyable."
Yet another similarity is the wide breadth of offerings in each market. One can shop for the most basic of gadgets or garments or go as high end as possible. And when it comes to premium brands in both sectors, both women and men know what they're doing, says Joanne Dalebout, director of apparel, jewelry and watches for Overstock.com. "Our customers are savvy consumers and they know brands. It becomes a treasure hunt for them, particularly when they recognize items that they have seen for a higher price at an upscale retailer."
Dalebout's observations do highlight one area where the two markets may ultimately differ in the longer term: price expectation. As everyone knows, the longer one waits for the latest tech item, the lower the price. Perhaps not so in denim. "Jeans may become more and more exclusive as more premium denim designers enter the marketplace," concludes Dupuis, the trend forecaster.
So, how to make the right investment? As Joanne and Nick, our real-life happy couple says, "Buy what you love and you will never go wrong!"
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.
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