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ShopGirl vs. ShopBoy

By Kerry L. Marsala
web posted November 21, 2005

Between the battle of the sexes, it has been reported that women know how to shop and men do not have a clue.  Women, with their plastic cards in hand, appear to be able to out shop their boyfriends and husbands, and as consumers they seemed to have mastered the ability of always buying that 'perfect gift’ for someone.

With very little polling data or scientific investigation, how can such claims be made?  Is the realm of procuring items only relegated to the fairer sex or is there more to men’s abilities to accomplish the feat of shopping than women think?  According to some girlfriends and wives, their male partners are totally inept consumers.  They feel that men in general cannot shop and do not even desire to understand how to shop. 

Michelle Courtright Bjork owner of Romeo Shops -- whose slogan is  "…because guys can’t shop" -- has designed a shopping website set up to help the male pick, compare, purchase and even wrap his chosen gift for his lovely lady.  Due to her quippy slogan though she has received all kinds of hate mail because people are claiming that she is reinforcing incorrect stereotypes of men. Now, I do not think Michelle is reinforcing any incorrect or negative stereotypes, perhaps we have all just become over sensitive politically correct boobs, her slogan is clever, eye catching and funny.  After talking to her, I feel she is playing a bit tongue in cheek and using her business smarts to offer a way for busy men to shop easily for their women.  Besides, why should the slogan upset anyone? Chances are the same people who are offended by Romeo Shops slogan think Homer Simpson is a riot… and doh… he is.  Homer could not find his way around a Victoria’s Secret store to purchase Marge a thong unless a donut was tied to it.

One analysis conducted by marketing professor, Katherine Harris, of Wellesley's Babson College, has made a study out of "holiday shopping behavior." In an editorial released from TownOnline.com Harris states that, "market research shows that male shoppers want to get in and out of stores quickly." Harris goes on to state that, "Men feel stuck when shopping with women and appreciate a place to sit, wait and even watch TV!" Adding to this Harris stated, "If tagging along, best to steer them to 'man friendly' departments like electronics."   Well professor of marketing or not… speaking as a female and for most of my female friends, we want to "get in and out of stores" just as quickly. We as women too feel "stuck" when we have to go shopping for certain items that our male counterparts are thrilled to spend hours searching, comparing, handling, and finally buying. We like to have a place to sit, wait, and even watch TV as well.

Could it be that shopping has nothing to do with gender, but more to do with individual personalities?  I happen to love shopping for electronics, and purses all within moments of each other.  I have a guy friend who just loves to shop for silk ties and peruse sporting goods stores.  We both just like to get in there though, exam, compare prices and quality and leave so we can go and enjoy our new found items.  As well, when we shop together we give each other a respectful time limit of hanging out as we each may shop for our own delights -- about an hour or so -- after that we say, "Hey I am going to go get a coffee and wait for you till you get done."  That way neither of us feels pressured to 'just hurry up', we get to sit, relax, and enjoy a Starbucks while waiting on the other shopper.

Perhaps we as women have just thought we were better at shopping and perhaps not all men have reached the zenith of proficiency at abusing their credit cards yet. Lest we forget women used to think they were the only ones who could cook (Emeril Lagasse), design fashion (Tom Ford), and cut/style hair (Jonathan Antin). Hmmm, maybe we had better take a look again. 

Men are taking to the idea of shopping and they are shopping smarter, and more expertly than they ever have before.  With the advent of women entering the workforce by large numbers certain imbalances were going to be forced to switch and now men have to learn how to shop and many have very well.  Not only are they learning but also, they are actually enjoying the hunt, the comparing, and the discovery of pleasure found in pleasing the recipients of their gifts.

Sure, there are still a few Neanderthals dragging their knuckles along the ground and screaming as the beat their hairy chests "I hate shopping!" but the face of shopping is changing.  Men are savvier, and more apt to become quite proficient at whatever challenges we women lay before them.  So be careful ladies, your man may just become the next "Diva Maven" of shopping.  Moreover, this is one lady who finds a man who is able to shop, cook, design his wardrobe, use a table saw and watch baseball very appealing indeed.

Kerry L. Marsala is a freelance journalist who is terrible at being patient enough to check punctuation and grammar. She figures if Bernard Shaw can get away with it, she might have a chance too.

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