Sunday, November 7, 2004

Shop 'til you drop, masculine version

Stores slow to realize men shopping more

By John Nolan
The Associated Press

Steven Sunderman has shopped for years for paintings, sculptures and furniture for his 19th-century Victorian-style house.

He prefers classic furnishings that complement his home's vintage fireplaces and the old Victrola he has in the hallway.

WHAT'S HAPPENING: Men have stepped up their shopping interest in such categories as pet supplies, home decorating, food, fragrances, prescriptions, skin care, hair care, clothing, greeting cards and computers.
WHY? Retailers and industry analysts say younger men are more comfortable with shopping than older generations, exercise more independence and are paying increased attention to personal appearance and grooming.
THE RESULT: Retailers' responses include "pamper the man" sales promotions, television sets and Internet hookups in some department stores, and sales displays grouping accessories with some men's apparel.
"Clean, classic lines. That goes for the fashion, that goes for the home furnishings and the art, too, for that matter," said Sunderman, 39, marketing director for an annual choral festival.

It is only recently he has seen signs that retailers are trying to cater to male shoppers.

This is so even though retail industry consultants say men are turning out in increasing numbers and are buying at many of the stores frequented by women.

A suburban Cincinnati Lazarus-Macy's department store has placed television sets in lounges near fitting rooms.

Stores are offering seminars and tailoring promotions to men and changing the way they display their products.

"They've always got a game on and the men are sitting down watching.

"While you're shopping, you can look up and see that 3-point shot," Sunderman said.

"They're paying a little bit more attention to us, I guess."

The shopping trend is generally among younger men and has been gaining steam in the past five to 10 years for a combination of reasons, retailing consultants say.

"Traditionally, males were accused of grabbing anything in sight and running," said Thomas Cline, an associate professor of marketing at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. "Now they're lingering and browsing more."

The younger men - primarily in their 20s - have developed tastes for food and clothing, often have spent time with young women and are paying more attention to personal appearance and grooming, said Wendy Liebmann, president of New York-based WSL Strategic Retail, which focuses on how people shop and how retailers might lure them into stores more often.

Stores aren't moving as quickly as they could to reach out to male shoppers, said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group of Nutley, N.J., which forecasts industry trends and consumer spending patterns.

"Yes, women are still there in full force with their shopping carts. But there are plenty of men there shopping as well."

A study this spring by Liebmann's firm found that men are shopping at more of the same stores and for many of the same product categories as women. It found that sales to men were up in categories including pet supplies, home decorating, food, fragrances, prescriptions, skin care, hair care, clothing, greeting cards, computers and software.

Four of 10 men made at least four weekly shopping trips, and of those, 27 percent made five or more trips.

Federated Department Stores Inc., which operates both Macy's and Lazarus-Macy's, has installed TV sets and Internet hookups in about 100 of its 450 stores nationwide since 2002 to provide a diversion for anyone accompanying shoppers.

Neiman Marcus, an upscale retailer based in Dallas, used to display items like sportswear and shoes in separate departments but now groups them together to cater to men who want to buy accessories for a suit or sweater.

"They want to complete the look with all the accessories, just like women want to do," said Colby McWilliams, a vice president and men's fashion director for the company.

More men also are undergoing treatments at beauty salons, buying hair- and skin-care products and even getting their eyebrows waxed.

Teens and executives between 25 and 45 who are "really hip and into their looks" are showing up in greater numbers at BeautyFirst Inc. stores, said Colleen Camp, who oversees salon development for the 27-state chain of beauty stores and salons.

"Once you color your hair, then you need more products," Camp, a hairdresser for 22 years, said from her office in Wichita, Kan.

"Whatever you recommend for a man, he'll buy, because no one's ever recommended to him before."

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