Wellness Forum: How men shop

By Cary Silvers

Many retailers know that their success is determined by their ability to be ahead of the curve on trends and consumer change. The famous Wayne Gretzky quote, “I skate to where the puck is going to be,” is the perfect metaphor. When it comes to your customer base, the question is do you appeal to what they were or how they have changed?

The structure of American households has changed significantly, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percentage of households with children is now 31%, vs. 49% in 1960. Traditional married households, where only the husband is employed, now make up 21% of all households, vs. 45% in 1975. The percentage of married dual-earner households is now 44%, vs. 31% in 1975.

The changes as they relate to women are well known—more work, more have college degrees and they earn more money. The thing almost everyone can agree on is that women have less time. To make these households work, men have stepped up and are much more involved in taking on chores and responsibilities—specifically around shopping and preparing meals.

The automotive industry reaped big financial rewards in the 1980s when it recognized the power of women in regard to vehicle purchase decisions. First, industry executives realized that more women were buying cars. Second, they recognized the influence of women on the buying decisions. Even today, more men buy vehicles than women. However, approximately 60% of all auto purchases are made or influenced by women.

Some of those same principles can be applied to men at the grocery store. The How Men Shop for Food study by Men’s Health magazine reveals that 74% of married guys are either the primary household shopper or a secondary-type shopper with influence on the products and brands that are bought for their household. For this article, we will bypass single guys, with the belief they do all of their shopping. The breakout of the married male shopper is as follows:

•32% are principle shoppers (do more than half of the shopping);
•42% are shopper/influencers (they do 25% to 50% of the shopping); and
•25% did little to no shopping (they do less than 25% of the shopping)

Many companies underestimate the 42% who are shopper/in­fluencers. Yet, our data shows that they wield a great deal of influence on many of the brands and products that are purchased for their households. Even when they were not on the shopping trip, they influence specific brands and products that go on the shopping list. When they shop with a list, 85% go beyond the items on the list.

I have read articles that suggest grocers can appeal to men by making certain modifications, such as moving grab-and-go foods toward the front of the store and having more self-service checkouts. While these are not bad ideas, supermarket executives should concentrate on strategies that will persuade men to go deeper into the store, rather than just getting them out as quickly as possible. Retailers should think beyond the elements of convenience by creating aisle destination solutions that appeal to men.

Our research shows that the low-hanging fruit is in the snack and cereal aisles. In the survey, 33% of men tried a new salty or sweet snack last year, followed by ice cream (32%) and cereal (31%). What snacking solutions can grocers provide that could help men snack healthier or showcase new products to satisfy their cravings for something sweet or salty? Let us move beyond in-store displays that simply sell football-shaped dishes adjacent to the popcorn and chips during football season.

From the retail side, everyone recognizes the changed landscape of food shopping. Although it is slightly down, shoppers have specific trips and purchase plans across different retailers. So, if shoppers have learned to shop beyond one store, it stands to reason that retailers should look to attract and satisfy more than one type of shopper.

Cary Silvers is director of consumer insights for Rodale. He can be reached at cary.silvers@rodale.com.

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