Online Shopping & Men

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Last year, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed how luxury makers who traditionally target women are taking aim at the men in their lives. While this is not a particularly new trend, the intensity and focus surrounding the effort is definitely growing.

I also read about Longchamp reviving its line of men’s bags, and it turns out that was only the opening salvo. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Lanvin, and even Dolce & Gabbana have all ramped up their menswear related offerings.

While men are beginning to actually shop more like women, achieving the same level of brand loyalty is still an elusive goal. Generally speaking men are still more comfortable switching brands if one maker does not carry a desired product.

Men also appear to be taking that hunter/gatherer shopping approach to the mall. In 1995 52% of men bought their own clothes, compared to 75% in 2006. In addition, the menswear segment of the retail landscape has become quite profitable as guys across the board ease into the role of acquisitive spender. After observing this growing trend, retailers are taking action.

For example, in 2007, Tiffany & Co. and Hermes both opened new stores in the Wall Street district of New York City. Each of these locations specifically target male shoppers. The Hermes store even has a separate salon dedicated to its custom tailored clothing; the first of its kind in any Hermes outlet.

In this past week’s Wall Street Journal, another layer was added to the mix: Internet shopping.

According to Forrester Research, men are also the alpha species when it comes to shopping online. We spend more, make fast decisions and as a group, tend not to return the stuff we don’t really want. As to the spending, another market research group found that in the previous three months, men dropped an average of US$2,400 online compared to women who spent closer to US$1,500. And men spent most of that money almost exclusively on luxury goods.

Retailers are responding to men’s web based demands as well. With this new insight into how men shop online, Brooks Brothers has cut in half the time it takes for images to pop up on its website’s pages – now literally a fraction of a second. This way, guys can quickly pull up what they want to see and decide on a purchase without losing interest because of loading delays. Brooks has also introduced a new tool that lets customers shop magazine and newspaper ads. Pull up the ad on the Brooks Brothers site and just roll your curser over any item you want to buy.

Many companies have expanded existing or created brand new men’s departments on their websites. Others are tweaking their sites to be more men-friendly. Neiman Marcus has revamped how it presents ties on your computer screen; where once you could only view nine at a time, now a whopping 52 instantly pop up.

This is handy because, just like in the bricks and mortar world, men don’t like to waste time shopping online. On average, a guy will take a third of the time a woman does to make a purchase. And once a sale is made, should the reality not match up with the dream, men return less than 10% of their apparel purchases while women return more than 20%.

Men are not yet the next women when it comes to shopping – online or otherwise – but maybe it doesn’t even matter. Men are now interested in shopping for themselves. They care about the experience and are more knowledgeable than ever before. If you are a retailer, that’s what you should really be focusing on.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice

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