Market Assessment report on Men & Women\'s Buying Habits shows fundamental shifts in the traditional balance of economic power between men and women.
Press Release Body = Men and Womens Buying Habits
Market Assessment report on Men & Women\'s Buying Habits shows fundamental shifts in the traditional balance of economic power between men and women. The impacts of both prolonged prosperity and the rise in the number of women entering the workplace have brought male dominance of `big ticket\' consumer spending to a new tipping point. Similarly, the growth in Internet retailing has brought a reversal in the previous male dominance of this distribution chain. Research indicates that women are now the leading Internet shoppers, in terms of both volume and value. Elsewhere in the economy, new developments in both retailing and marketing are challenging those stereotypes that had influenced strategic thinking in retail.
The UK economy underwent a short, sharp shock in 2004, after interest rates rose. Consumers were forced to rethink outstanding credit arrangements and to rein in their spending. Consequently, consumer expenditure slowed in the latter half of 2004 and beginning of 2005 and the levels of savings began to rise again. Research indicates that this shift in attitude was particularly significant among men - who tend to carry higher levels of debt and to have more concerns about repayments. The underlying strength of the UK economy remains undisputed, as other key indicators of low unemployment and inflation do not fundamentally challenge the pattern of rising consumer expenditure set in the 1990s. Leisure and holiday markets continue to benefit from the rise in prosperity.
Other key demographic data are also of primary importance in considering gender differences in buying habits. This report highlights the rapid rise in employment among women. A far greater proportion of women are employed in less well-paid sectors, but women are making inroads in the higher echelons of business and as entrepreneurs. Of greater long-term significance is the gradual rise in women\'s wealth. Disparity remains as far as rates of pay for men and women are concerned, but Key Note has identified trends and report findings that support the view that women are gaining a far greater share of the UK\'s personal assets as a result of a wide range of factors - most notably, early financial independence. The high cost of housing is beginning to have a major impact on young people\'s spending patterns and longer-term financial planning in relation to gender. A far higher proportion of men remain in their parental homes for longer than women. These men might have higher disposable incomes for a period of time - however, in broad terms, they lack the determination that many women have to set up independently and acquire their own assets at a young age.
Key markets reviewed for this report show the following key trends: a more cautious pattern of consumer spending in the light of the recent corrections in interest rates and the housing market, and a consequent reluctance to spend on `big-ticket\' items; and major alterations in patterns of distribution, e.g. the growing dominance of the supermarket retailers and increasing parity in patterns of demand between the sexes, which is paralleled by the rise of Internet retailing.
The car market, in common with many other markets, has entered a competitive period in which, although volume sales have increased, market values are declining as a result of high capacity, high levels of imports and market saturation. Women are still far more likely than men to live in households with no car, although the pattern is far more equal among younger men and women. Women\'s increased earning power and rising economic wealth therefore make them of growing importance in expanding car manufacturers\' threatened sales targets.
The UK brown goods market shows a similar pattern of slow growth in 2005. Key sectors, such as flat-screen televisions and camcorders, are driving market sales. Competition in the market as a whole is ensuring radical changes in distribution. A high number of retail outlets are closing as a result of competition from supermarkets and the growing success of Internet retailing. Research shows little variation in levels of brown goods ownership between the sexes, but one of the key factors in the success of supermarkets\' strategy of selling more electrical goods is the high number of women attracted to their simplicity and value-for-money approach, which contrasts with the fact that specialist retailers are often preferred by men.
The holiday market has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of new spending power. Despite the setbacks of natural disasters and terrorist attacks of recent years, the sector remains strong; expenditure and market volumes are expected to have risen over 2005. One of the biggest transformations in the market has been the impact of Internet sales, which are reported by some providers to account for up to a half of all bookings. The impact of the Internet, low-cost flights and the rise in independent travel are creating a revolution in the way in which consumers both perceive and purchase services. Key Note research clearly indicates that women are no longer playing second fiddle to men in browsing and buying on the Internet. Several providers report that women now form the majority of online visitors and bookers.
Attitudes towards shopping are clearly also changing in line with changes in lifestyles and the increased possibilities of Internet and home shopping. Research for this report shows a reduction in the use of cars for shopping by both sexes and an increased alignment of shopping trips with patterns of work. There is evidence of a growing distinction made by both men and women of shopping for `essentials\' and `non-essentials\'. For the former, consumers now want efficient and quick solutions. For shopping for clothing and non-essential items, expectations are building for environments that entertain, inform and make a trip to a shop worthwhile. There is abundant evidence within the report of radically different approaches to shopping for `non-essentials\' between men and women - with men being much happier to `go for the kill\', whereas women are still far more inclined to value shopping as a social and therapeutic activity. Different shopping environments and customer policies that accommodate different tastes of the sexes may have their place but today\'s marketplace also demands a far more complex approach, which takes a much more varied customer base into account. For example, research from the US suggests that patterns of shopping behaviour between young men and women who have grown up in affluent households are becoming more similar (see Chapter 4 - Buying Habits - for further detail).
A growing gender convergence in patterns of employment is beginning to lead to more subtle marketing approaches and a rejection by consumers, and women in particular, of those marketing strategies that stereotype and do not acknowledge the massive societal changes that have been experienced as more women become workers as well as mothers. Key Note highlights study findings that show an increasing dissatisfaction among women with advertisers\' representations of modern women. Gender complexity is the emerging trend in marketing to both men and women. Just as more younger men now shop more frequently, more women do not want to be characterised as domesticated shoppers - even if their appetite for shopping remains as strong as ever.
The success of both the supermarkets and Internet retailers can be said to owe more than a little to a gender-free approach, where men and women are treated on a more equal basis. The growth in broadband access in UK homes will be a major driver of future UK sales growth. Research indicates that women have now overtaken men as online shoppers and, by 2010, around 20% of UK shopping will be carried out online. Other significant findings include a focus on women\'s growing independent wealth which will impact on the markets for luxury goods. Consumer research for this report also offers extensive detail on different patterns of decision-making between the genders in terms of shopping, car use and home shopping and the remarkable rise in solo shopping for both men and women.