7 Ways Men and Women Shopping Habits Differ

For years, all signs pointed to women making at least 80% of household spending decisions. According to research, they handled the day-to-day of what to buy in the grocery store, what to buy for the home, what to spend on children’s education, and even played a large role in decisions including what car to buy. In the past decade, the shopping habits have (at least) begun to turn. According to the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA), along with cooking moving up on the list of interests among men, 47% of men polled also do more than half of the shopping and cooking duties for their families. That means brands that have traditionally marketed to women should probably explore new ways to appeal to the male demographic.

Here are 7 ways men and women shop differently:

1. Women seek out deals.
In total, according to PLMA, women are consummate bargain hunters. They tend to buy more items that are on sale (34% of dollar purchases versus 28% for men) and they also shop with coupons more often. Men, on the contrary, spend more per item than women.

2. Women spend more when they’re younger, but men spend more as they age.
Women under age 36 outspend men of the same age nearly 2:1 (19% versus 12%). In the 36-44 age bracket, women tend to spend less while men spend a little more. From 45-54, men have the slight edge in spending (27% versus 26%), and they extend that lead in ages 55-64. After 65, men take the cake.

3. Men largely stay away from the beauty and baking aisles.
About 75% to 90% of the time, women do the shopping in the beauty, baby and basic food categories. That includes everything from deodorant and toothpaste to baking mixes, dessert gels and syrups, and breakfast items. When men do shop for items in those product categories, however, they tend to spend more on them than women.

4. Men spend way more in convenience stores.
Snacks, sodas, beer, break, milk and other products found in convenience stores are purchased by men 57% of the time. According to Nielsen research, many brands are already attempting to take advantage of that by bundling items or creating themed deals that are easily seen by the male gender.

5. Men buy; women shop.
In a study titled, “Men Buy, Women Shop,” researchers at Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retail Initiative and the Verde Group, a Toronto consulting firm, found that women react more strongly than men to personal interaction with sales associates. While men show favor when it comes to more utilitarian aspects of shopping, including the availability of parking spaces or whether a specific item they are searching for is currently in stock, women are drawn to the experience. “Women think of shopping in an interpersonal, human fashion and men treat it as more instrumental. It’s a job to get done,” said Wharton marketing professor Stephen J. Hoch in the study.

6. Customer service is a big one for women.
According to the Wharton study, 29% of women identify “lack of help when needed” as the top problem to their shopping experience. In fact, about 6% of all female shopping will take their business elsewhere – for good – if customer service is lacking. Men, however, say their top problem is difficulty in finding parking close to the store’s entrance.

7. Men spend less time per trip but take more trips.
While men may spend less time in the store, they shop with greater weekly frequency, according to Wharton. They also tend to spend more even though they generally purchase fewer items. Researchers say this finding suggests that women may still take care of larger grocery shopping duties for their household while men take care of the intermittent trips to pick up specific items or food for immediate use (ingredients for that night’s dinner).


“Men Buy, Women Shop:” The Sexes Have Different Priorities When Walking Down the Aisles, Wharton University of Pennsylvania, 28 November 2007.

“As More Men Push Shopping Cars, are Brands and Retailers Adapting?” Neilsen Consumer, 30 April 2014.

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