Retail TouchPoints: Attracting Male Consumers Into Stores

Oct 26, 2009

By Amanda Ferrante

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

retailers are focused on providing an optimal in-store experience, retail
strategist Bertrand Pellegrin says stores are typically designed to cater
to women, and that today’s male consumer is doing more of his shopping with
an eye to both fashion and value.

Mr. Pellegrin’s new book, Branding the Man,
explores how retailers can harvest men’s attraction of sports, electronics,
sex and fitness and channel it into creating an atmosphere where the male
shopper is comfortable and eager to spend.

In an interview with Retail TouchPoints,
the director of BP Consulting said he believes that men are an undervalued
demographic and have not been adequately addressed in terms of retail opportunities.

“By the late 1970s and early 1980s, gay culture, along with so-called ‘alternative’
culture — such as punk rock and fringe movements — began to filter into
the mainstream,” said Mr. Pellegrin. “Gym culture and fitness, formerly a largely
gay enclave, became the norm, while street fashion moved into high fashion.
By the 1990s, we began to see men becoming more self-aware than ever before.
Celebrities also influenced how men expressed themselves and made vanity and
style a more acceptable characteristic. Consider that masculine icons like
Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and even Barack Obama are certainly peacocks without
compromising their virility.”

Although fashion has become a bigger opportunity
in targeting men, personal grooming is the fastest growing business, he said.
As men delay marriage and fend for themselves in the home, consumer goods such
as food and cleaning products loom as bigger items for men.

“Men are learning how to shop and I definitely see men shopping in supermarkets
with more information and interest,” said Mr. Pellegrin.

He said smaller specialty
boutiques and neighborhood stores tend to have the best success with men because
they feel authentic and don’t require men to navigate complicated first floor
cosmetics departments like department stores. He points to concept stores like
Merci in Paris, Dover Street Market in London, or Odin in New York.

“These are still high street concepts and probably don’t always appeal to
the ‘ordinary’ guy, but they are very much on the right track,” said Mr.
Pellegrin. “These
are well-edited stores with a distinct point of view and their merchandise
is modern and confident.”

In working to foster a more men-centric vibe in their
stores, he said stores should avoid:

  1. overly-precious or ostentatious store
  2. merchandising displays based on designers versus looks/styles;
  3. pushy sales staff.

“The best environments feel organic and men can look for pants in one corner
and tops in another,” said Mr. Pellegrin. “I love it when stores have sporting
goods and toys mixed in. It allows discovery and the ‘cool stuff’ — tech
gadgets, sporting goods, and toys — act as lifestyle cues. Suddenly it’s
not just a store, but a great hangout to shop and learn.”

Discussion Questions:
Do you agree that retailers are underestimating the potential to reach a more
fashionable and “self-aware” male consumer? What
are some of the key tactics for retailers to foster a more men-centric vibe
in their stores? What is the particular challenge for stores selling both
men’s and women’s merchandise?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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14 Comments on "Retail TouchPoints: Attracting Male Consumers Into Stores"

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Bob Phibbs
12 years 6 months ago

Sorry, I don’t buy the idea men want tops in one department and pants in another. That is a mission shopper, not a men vs women. Everyone wants a great shopping experience.

Men in particular are looking for someone to make the experience painless. And “pushy salespeople…” what does that mean exactly? And in these days, who exactly has found anyone pushy anymore?

I suggest men want what women want which is to not be ignored, pressured, lied to or unappreciated. Look forward to reading his book though.

David Biernbaum
12 years 6 months ago

The real issue is that many male shoppers dislike being in department stores.

Retailers definitely have room to improve the appeal of the shopping experience for men. I find that more than women, the male shopper seeks advice and consultation for purchasing clothes. However, the adviser, which in most cases is a salesperson (if not a spouse, relative, friend, etc) usually is the salesperson. Otherwise, retail stores should provide more information at the point of purchase with regard to style, sizes, fit, and usefulness. For example, is this garment considered to be “business casual?”

Marge Laney
12 years 6 months ago
Men have always wanted to look good but they have less tolerance for lousy service than their female shopper counterparts. If you’ve ever been in a so called “high street” shop and watched what happens, you’ll see skilled and knowledgeable sales associates creating wardrobe selections for each of their customers. They stage their clients in fitting rooms and feed them fashion one outfit at a time; it’s a beautiful thing. The same can be said for specialty boutiques and neighborhood stores. Sole proprietors and high-end retail associates are emotionally and economically vested in each of their customers. Many aspirational apparel retailers want that proprietor feel that small shops and very high-end retailers can achieve, especially in the fitting room. But, that’s just not possible. It’s a great thing to aspire to, but with high turnover, little incentive, etc, even the best chains are really fighting an uphill battle. These high-touch strategies are in fact an attempt by the large chain retailer to act small. The best way to achieve “acting small” for the large chain… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
12 years 6 months ago

I have often pondered what would happen to the retail industry if it had to depend primarily on males to succeed. Men seem more inclined toward services (spectator sports, pub crawling, oozling, etc.) than products per se, although many like neatly furnished quarters and like to dress fashionably. Then there are others who aren’t into such things. That, of course, represents a great opportunity and challenge for innovative retailers. Nonetheless, it is the females who give retailing its momentum.

Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned
12 years 6 months ago

Look again at that list of three things that retailers focused on men should avoid. That’s really a list for retailers focused on serving the highest customer standards, and the exact same three things would apply to the women’s market. Perhaps dissecting what makes for the best experience for the toughest customers of any particular brand/retailer is the best idea. Polarizing the marketplace into men over here and women over there is making the whole topic more complex than it needs to be.

“Transparent marketing” (as I wrote about in Don’t Think Pink) is being guided and inspired by your core consumer. Rather than make assumptions about how today’s man must have babes in bikinis at every step of the process, or that women always go for pink versions of products, just ask your customers–men, women or a combination. Sure enough–great marketing is, for the most part, quite gender neutral.

David Livingston
12 years 6 months ago

The men’s department needs to be removed from anything that resembles something feminine. Guns, sporting goods, beer, and tools should surround men’s clothing.

Kohl’s seems to have done a good job in men’s clothing despite the overall feminine themes to their stores. Generally, their prices are marked down. Men typically do not like to pay high prices for clothing they way women do. Between Kohl’s, Walmart, and Farm & Fleet, an ordinary guy should have to look no further.

Roger Saunders
12 years 6 months ago

With the continually shifting demographics of the marketplace, it’s critical to a number of retailers to make certain that they have the male perspective. Based on October, 2009 Consumer Intentions & Actions (CIA) Survey data, an ever increasing number of Males (Females, as well) are habitating in a different pattern than merchandising execs may be considering.

49% of Males are Married
7% of Males are living with an unmarried Partner
9% of Males are Divorced
2% of Males are Widowed
33% of Males are Single and have never been Married

Keep the focus on the consumer, and the shifting demographic patterns. They can lead to some different perspectives in terms of merchandising, service, operations, etc.

Bill Emerson
Bill Emerson
12 years 6 months ago

“How to get men to shop.”

This comes up with regularity, usually when business is tough. Here’s a few realities:

– Over 80% of men’s apparel is purchased by wives or girl friends, either directly or as advisors (“you’re not really going to wear that, are you?”)
– Men are, in the main, target shoppers–get in, find it as soon as possible, get out. The idea of wandering around a store looking at alternatives or trying on different outfits strikes most men as indecisive and/or a waste of time–not typical masculine traits.
– Most men, not all but most, do not put as much emphasis on what they are wearing as women do. Now if you want to talk about tools (Home Depot), sporting goods (Dick’s), or outdoors (Cabelas, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro) you’ve got their attention. The latest menswear fashion? Not so much.

Matt Hahn
Matt Hahn
12 years 6 months ago

Retail has a lot of opportunities when it comes to tagging the male consumer. Men shop much differently than women. They don’t peruse the racks and aisles the way women do; on average they’re in and out. In fact, we typically know what we’re looking for and want to go in, find it easily and move on.

The article brings up a lot of good points. We don’t want pushy sales staff, but want help if we need it. We don’t want to be marketed to the same way women are, there should be a masculine quality to the approach that we can identify with. If it feels too feminine, we’ll shut down mentally and our wallets will follow. And since we’re geared toward going in and hunting down what we need, we don’t usually take the time to wander and shop. By mixing in toys and gadgets, the retailer allows for a sense of discovery and can drive additional sales.

Craig Sundstrom
12 years 6 months ago

Though I can believe that there are differences between the (average) male and female shopper, it seems like efforts to quantify this often descend to the level of stereotyping, if not downright parody, as exemplified by some of the facetious remarks here (at least I hope David’s remarks we’re facetious).

Just this past week, for example, I visited no fewer than 5 stores looking for ice cube trays; was I betraying my male colleagues and “shopping” or was I “targeting” with a vengeance? (And note: I settled on a ridiculously priced pair that promises “perfect square cubes,” showing that novelty and presentation still sells, regardless of whether you wear a shirt or a “top.”)

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
12 years 6 months ago

OK, someone just figured out the reason for Walmart’s success. It’s not low prices, it’s having something for men to do while women shop. I can find lots to keep me interested in Walmart. Their main competitor, Target, gives me nothing to do. If there isn’t a Dick’s, Adventure Outfitters, Bass Pro Shop, or something else decent near the mall, I’m not going! You can build all the “metrosexual” stuff you want in the mall and it won’t do you any good as far as I am concerned and I expect that applies to at least 70% of the male population. If you want to spend all your marketing bucks catering to the 14% of males who “really care” and/or the 16% of males who might care, then you better be negotiating cheaper rent because you are going out of business in this economy.

Ted Hurlbut
Ted Hurlbut
12 years 6 months ago

I’d like to echo what Bill Emerson wrote. The idea that there are great numbers of men out there who would shop for their own apparel if only they were offered a different/better experience just doesn’t fly. The data consistently, simply doesn’t support it. Most men (not all!) are happy to let their wives/girlfriends shop for them. Their priorities are elsewhere.

That said, better menswear does need to be merchandised to a male customer. At that level, the percentages of men shopping for themselves goes up significantly.

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
12 years 6 months ago

The vast majority of stores that I visit are unisex. They don’t appeal to either sex. Marrying later and alternative lifestyles do result in more male shoppers. The real question: is there a big enough market to focus on? Clearly there are apparel and toys which have a gender preference. But I simply don’t see the importance in food retailing.

Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson
12 years 6 months ago
Aside from sporting goods merchants, I totally agree that retailers undervalue male consumers. Fortunately, there’s no better time to gain a better understanding of male shoppers than right now, as we begin to enter the post-recession and brands begin to rethink the shopping experience. But brands need to ensure that they learn about the entire man, i.e., their outside-the-store lifestyles and their inside-the-store needs. Only by understanding both those areas can brands begin to successfully target males, including new selling strategies, new products, new services, new loyalty programs, etc. In other words, it’s an entirely different offering than the current retail offering based solely on a female consumer. Any brands still wondering if males are a viable target should keep in mind that the current crop of male shoppers is really a transition demo. That means that current male shoppers are the ones who are largely learning “on the job” how to be confident shoppers. But that won’t be the case in about 10 years (probably sooner), because families are right now raising males who… Read more »

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