Men: Not That Hard to Figure Out
I actually bothered to read one of those disjointed stories on studies that purport to deliver insights into what motivates consumers to buy here rather than there. This one said something like, "Men take retail more personally... and are 50% more likely to feel that their preferred retailer makes them a more valuable person. Appearing to seek to enhance their identities and sense of self through the retailers they choose, men are also 53% more likely to feel that people will see them differently because they shop at a particular retailer."
Really? I swear I have no sense that I "will enhance my identity and sense of self" when I walk through the doors of my local Walmart and say "Hi" back to that octogenarian who looks like he could use an energizing defibrillation. I am there for essentially two decidedly non-life-affirming reasons: the prices, and the fact that there is almost enough parking (unlike Costco, where drivers circle the lot like vultures looking for carcasses starting to decay). Certainly it is not to rub shoulders with the other stylish Walmart shoppers or cashiers while fighting back some subliminal urge to join their social strata. In fact, it is kind of sad that I know more about the products in the electronics and hardware sections than the employees who offer to "help" me make a selection. So you could argue that I go there to feel morally superior, but you'd be hard-pressed to say that it enhances my sense of self. Especially since I am there about every two weeks.
For the longest time, there was but one drugstore in my little town. Then a competitor opened a big new store about a block away. They both carry about the same brands, but the second one has a zillion parking places around it, while the older store does not. Every Sunday they conduct a coupon war in the local paper, but I am male, so I never clip and use them. One store has an annoying rewards policy that gives you a couple of bucks off the next time you come in, but I am male and do not save receipts, so that program is not a deciding factor. So in this case, it all comes down to parking. My sense of self likes to park somewhere near the entrance. Especially when it rains.
Years ago, I wrote a column arguing that there was/are no such things as metrosexuals because real men hate to shop. Especially for stuff that is supposed to "enhance my identity and sense of self." For every guy who is stupid enough to pay 800 bucks for a "designer" shirt or slacks that are au courant, there are 5 or 8 million who are wearing last season's (or last decade's) "style" because they can still squeeze into them and the seat hasn't split yet.
It's somehow not affirming to be dragged into the menswear department or store by your significant other and forced to try on various colors and "combinations." The only time clothes shopping for men is fulfilling is during that once-a-year trip to replenish your underwear and accidentally discovering that the pants you have liked for the past 15 years are on sale and they have them in the color and size that you want -- a confluence of circumstances that happens less often than visits by comets named after Edmond Halley.
If retailers really want men in their stores, they need only to remember a few things: lower prices; good selection; lots of parking; no candy racks at checkout so the kid in front of you and his mom have occasion to debate the merits of a Snickers an hour before dinner; separate checkout lines for men (who do not have to search a bottomless purse to retrieve payment or run back for "one last thing") -- and, most important of all, female employees who look like they fell off a page of Maxim.