‘His’ and ‘Her’ Grocery Aisles

Discussion
Jun 06, 2011
Tom Ryan

With men doing more of the food shopping, male-only supermarket shopping aisles that focus on gender-specific products rather than merchandise by category could encourage men to browse longer, trial new items and spend more, according to research coming out of Australia.

Dr. Gary Mortimer, from Queensland University of Technology’s School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, focused on the healthy & beauty zone.

"Past research has shown that there is a group of male shoppers who have a ‘fear of the feminine’ or fear shopping among women’s health products such as tampons, waxing strips, pink razors and body scrubs," Dr. Mortimer told Queensland University of Technology’s News Web Service. "More recent research found that men made more purchases and had a positive association with health products that were not placed in high traffic areas or next to feminine-inspired products. This is based on the idea that men are apprehensive of women’s products and are therefore less likely to spend time perusing their own personal needs."

Men also shop differently, valuing efficiency and independence over customer service and tend not ask for help.

"A gender specific aisle would provide a relief to men, inspiring them to explore and discover new products. It also creates a sense of privacy, even sanctum," said Dr. Mortimer.

Dr. Mortimer also implied that more men’s-segmenting could support other categories as the gender has become increasing discerning in their shopping habits and even more impulse-driven.

"Retail liquor, for example, is typically a grid-style layout, so retailers could easily create an area specifically targeted at that market," he told Start Up Smart.

Speaking to The Herald Sun, Benedict Brook, a spokesman at Woolworths, Australia’s largest supermarket chain, expressed doubt that a "man cave" is necessary, noting the 65 percent of men’s toiletries are bought by women.

A few of the 32 comments that followed a Courier Mail article on the research were favorable of the idea if it led to a simpler shopper experience for men. Wrote Bill of Brisbane, "It’s not about sexual insecurity. It’s about making the sale."

But several — including many men — sarcastically lampooned the idea or were even angered, given feminine hygiene needs. Wrote Fed up Female of Brisbane, "Get over it fellas, now you know what women deal with everyday of their lives."

Discussion Questions: Should supermarkets have men-only lanes? Does a ’fear of the feminine’ exist at all for men shopping in certain categories? What categories at supermarkets would particularly benefit from better men’s vs. women’s segmentation?

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19 Comments on "‘His’ and ‘Her’ Grocery Aisles"


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Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
9 years 11 months ago

A lot of men definitely do not want to be seen browsing an aisle full of women’s products, especially personal hygiene items. Men’s aisles with products clearly aimed at men are a great idea to take advantage of changes in traditional household roles, as well as the fact people are marrying later and many men in their 30s and 40s do not have a wife to pick up the groceries for them.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
I am sure that there are men who would prefer to shop in a man aisle, but would think that would more likely be a generational thing. The “older” generation of which I am a member, grew up in a time where being seen around such things as “women’s” products were to be avoided. Two daughters later and my mind set got changed. I can also understand how the young (old enough to need the products, but…) might feel a little nervous about buying personal hygiene items in the same aisle where the girls from school are buying theirs. However, for the most part I don’t see the need for a separate aisle. My local Target does have a “man” aisle but I am not sure if the was by design or just the fact that the HBA configuration is a series of short aisles and there was enough “man” stuff to fill one. For the most part my wife picks up these items when she is shopping and I an sure it doesn’t bother… Read more »
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 11 months ago

I’m a big fan of male-only aisles, but not because of a “fear of feminine” (I mean really). The reason I like them is because there is a tangible difference between how women and men shop. At the risk of gross over-simplification, women tend to be browsers. They like to look at things they didn’t specifically come in for and will walk down all the aisles. Men, on the other hand, tend to be “target” shoppers. A good experience for them is to get in, find what they’re looking for quickly, and get out quickly. Anything that can facilitate this will be a big hit for men.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Shouldn’t this be more correctly termed “mates only”?

I supposed there are cultures where this might be a reasonable idea — and three years on the wonderful Isle of Oz was experience enough to convince me that Australia might be one of them. But after over ten years of consulting with Fem Hy clients, I just can’t see it being an advantage here in the U.S.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Preposterous, IMHO. Never had a problem with this, or even given it a thought. By designating a lane that is supposedly “men-only,” you might also be making it more difficult for women to go there, with the overall effect being to reduce total sales. How would I feel if there was a “women-only” aisle? I might be less likely to go there, but basically I’d just find it weird. I thought we were moving toward being more inclusionary, rather than in the other direction.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
I agree with Steve — this MAY be a generational thing. First of all, I’ve never seen a man “browsing” the feminine hygiene aisle. They either blow past it or make a quick, very directed purchase. Not a lot of male impulse shopping there. Next…although this still seems a surprise to some…it is the 21st Century and deliberate gender discrimination (at least blatant, public discrimination) is out of fashion everywhere except of course advertising, media and … well, apparently … retail. Following this logic train, don’t you need a Senior’s Aisle for incontinence products which might make younger shoppers uncomfortable? How about a Children’s Aisle for shoppers comfortable with products aimed at the 10 or below set? And what about Pork-Free meat departments for observant Jews and Muslims and a Beef-Free meat case for Hindus? I’m sure all those folks would feel more comfortable not having taboo foods shoved in their faces. Where would it all stop? I personally am not all that fond of my fellow humans, especially when they shop, so how about… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
9 years 11 months ago

I think it has taken the industry overall a very long time to recognize that not only is the shopper mostly a “she,” but that she shops differently from how many CPG companies were targeting her. To assume that we’ve come so far in targeting “her” that we now have to provide special areas for men in grocery stores feels a little strange. I haven’t shopped an Australian grocery store, so maybe it’s a different environment there. But mostly I would say that if you’re doing a good job understanding both who buys and who uses your products, and you meet their needs, it’s not going to really matter whether we’re talking about men or women. I appreciate the finer points of male/female psychology and shopping habit differences. But really.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Guys! There’s no need to be afraid of my pomegranate body wash. Really. Being near it won’t emasculate you. But if an Axe- or lime-scented aisle reassures you, by all means shop there. After all, we women definitely want men to do the grocery shopping. Maybe even once a year!

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
YIKES ! No intention of being “politically incorrect.” This blog post is directed at U.S. marketers, not their Middle East counterparts. No need for separate aisles. Men and women, singles and families, young and old, multiple cultural patterns, married and divorced–they’re all in the stores. The days of 2.2 kids, 3/4 of a dog, and a station wagon are over, and not likely to come back. Does that mean that merchandising techniques have to continue to evolve. Of course they do. It’s OK to see women as better, more efficient “gatherers.” Likely men might need a bit more direction in supermarkets in order to hold them there for an added number of minutes per visit. And, the in-store displays should evolve, too. Based on the December, 2010 Simultaneous Media Usage (SIMM) Survey, Men are more greatly influenced by 1) Ads on shopping carts, 2)Floor Graphics, 3) Infomation Kiosks, and 4) In–store television. Women are more proficient at 1) Reading product labels, 2) Making use of specific displays, 3) Using Store Loyalty cards, 4) taping into… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

This is silly. Do men really stay out of an aisle when it has feminine products in it? Categorize the store by type of merchandise. That makes sense and it makes shopping easy.

Where do we put condoms? Certainly a “men’s” product but half or more are bought by women.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

If I had a 50,000 sq. ft. store to do this, than yes, I say go for it, but most of us smaller independents can not make this work. Catering to all niches is a huge challenge, and if someone can be successful doing it…GREAT!

Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
9 years 11 months ago

Hee, Hee; I am with Ben and Ryan on this. Seems like a backward move in today’s era and (general) shopping environment. I’d be most interested in hearing from folks like Church & Dwight–with a portfolio of what were traditionally feminine products, now targeted to men as well. Would Nair-For-Men do better if located in the “man cave” aisle???

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

This is kind of funny, but I thought trad supermarkets were already set up by gender. There’s simply sections that men enjoy more than women and visa versa.

The biggest factor about this discussion to me is that men are target shoppers, pure and simple, and women are more willing to roam (although that’s changing a bit). So, if you give men another section to shop outside of their target, you’ll be asking for trouble. Key to marketing men is always the “kiss’ philosophy, and if that fails, use slapstick.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
9 years 11 months ago
Men-only aisles could help some men shop with more confidence, i.e., remove the fear or anxiety that some males may experience when shopping in general or when shopping specific categories. But retailers considering men-only aisles should keep in mind that such aisles could have a downside. For instance, if the goal is to increase sales from male consumers, a men-only aisle could limit exploration of the store and thus impede the goal. I also wonder if a men-only aisle will quickly become dated, given the changing lifestyles of males. For example, today’s younger males are much more comfortable shouldering shopping duties, and they feel less anxiety about exploring different aisles and products. If that shopper feels hamstrung by the men-only aisle, he may quickly make tracks for competitors’ stores. Men-only aisles (especially in the health and grooming categories) will likely work in the near term. But in the long run, if retailers want to really capture male dollars, it’s going to take a real understanding of male lifestyles, needs and behaviors–both inside the shopping experience… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

What’s the big deal? Are we still that macho that this has to be a consideration? I doubt it. However, if this macho stuff still exists when it comes to shopping, then maybe our wives need to give us more specific instructions to locate the products they need us to buy. But that leads to another issue. Are we too macho to want or ask for those instructions. Ahh, the never ending circle still exists within us.

I have not found where male specific items were that interwoven among female items that it impairs my ability to select the razor or shaving gel or tooth paste I want. For me this is a non issue. But I am wondering if my wife has the same concerns when I ask her to pick up what I need. I doubt it.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Oh the power of research to make me sad to be a guy. This does not surprise me as I know a couple of seemingly normal guys who will not purchase feminine products for their wives. The advice I give them and others who have a “fear of the feminine” is to immediately purchase and read “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” and call a “do over.”

Bernice Hurst
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Actually there is one really great reason for men only aisles–if they won’t buy the stuff women want then women will still have to shop and not just send their men. So more people will buy more stuff. Store wins, wins and then wins again.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Really, men become 6 thinking about girls? Sorry not buyin the “fear of the feminine” for a substantial amount of men. And I’m talking gay or straight.

Want to raise sales with segmentation? Take a page from the Breastaurants I wrote about recently and not make shopping a lonely, uncomfortable slog.

Instead of putting all the “social” in the palm of their hand…put social in the aisle. There are dozens of ways to maximize it in a large urban area but fear of tampons? please…

Lee Smith
Guest
Lee Smith
9 years 11 months ago

Is this really news? Hypermarkets all over Europe have been creating men’s Health & Beauty aisles for years, and supermarkets frequently have a men’s H&B endcap strategically placed near the checkout queue.

Rather than separating men’s and women’s aisles, the key is to understand how men shop the entire store then look at how adjacencies and product placement can facilitate impulse purchasing and trading up — for men (and women).

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