The influence of gender on retail

While presenting at the Board Retailer Association’s ( Retail Survivor Series, in Orlando this week, there was some discussion on the difference between color or category stories in visual merchandising. An interesting point was raised by one of retailers:Should his menswear department be merchandised differently from his womenswear department?

His thinking was that since men make purchase decisions in a more pragmatic fashion than women, his department should be set up that way. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Men tend to enter into a store already wanting a shirt or pair of shorts and don’t much care about the outfit being presented or the way the colors interact, right? And women, who make purchase decisions on a more emotional level shop differently, right?

Well, there is a problem with this type of thinking. Consider this: women do not just shop in the women’s department! Women do not just buy women’s clothing, and are a major influence behind big-ticket item purchases, like televisions and cars as well. In short, how women shop needs to be considered in all aspects of product presentation.

When I was on the sales floor at REI, I often helped women shopping in the menswear department. Because there is another basic problem with the thinking that stores can separate their visual merchandising of departments based on end use: Women often make purchases for men. In addition, women will, from time to time, purchase clothing and accessories for themselves from the men’s department.

It’s important to consider the many ways your departments will be shopped when making visual decisions. You wouldn’t set up your children’s department purely for children, right?

Let me know what your experience has been, and check this article out for more facts on how women influence buying decisions:

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