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Women's shopping | Retail industry | South Africa
March 2015

Female shoppers’ habits

Women play an important role in shopping decisions. They not only buy for themselves … they often buy for their entire household. CARIN HARDISTY asked our retail readers to provide information about their female customers

In the US, women are responsible for making 85% of all consumer purchases, a study by The Nielsen Company and She-Conomy found. US women spend 80% of all sport apparel dollars and control 60% of all money spent on men’s clothing, another She-Conomy study found.

What is the situation here at home? Are your female customers more likely to buy for themselves or for other people? we asked our retail readers.

They buy for themselves, the majority (62.5%) responded.

When they buy for themselves, women are most likely to buy performance apparel and footwear 29.2% of respondents indicated, or leisure clothing (25% of respondents).

When looking at lifestyle stores specifically, where you might expect to see the same clothing popularity, women are most likely to buy footwear for themselves, all the respondents indicated. Only a third of lifestyle fashion clothing and footwear store respondents indicated that their female customers are more likely to buy leisure clothing for themselves than footwear.

All of the lifestyle fashion clothing and footwear store respondents indicated that their customers will usually buy for themselves — and not for other people.

Buy for others

More than a third (37.5%) of all our retail respondents, however, indicated that their female customers are more likely to buy something for someone else in their stores than for themselves.

A quarter of all respondents indicated that in this scenario leisure clothing is the most popular purchase choice, with performance footwear (20.8% of respondents) and then performance apparel and equipment (16.7% of respondents) the next most likely purchase for someone.

Women shopping in outdoor stores are the most likely to buy for someone else, our survey revealed. More than half (57.1%) of outdoor respondents and two thirds of sport and outdoor respondents indicated that their female customers are more likely to shop for someone else at their stores than they are to shop for themselves.

What is it then that women are most likely to buy for others at these stores?

Gadgets, say the respondents.

Men’s domain

Women are also shopping in the traditional male domain of fishing tackle stores, where they predominantly buy fishing tackle for others.

Women comprise between 11-25% of their customers, report tackle traders, and respondents indicated that all of their female customers buy for others instead of themselves. Retailers stocking fishing products will therefore do well to take into account that while fishing is perhaps a male-dominated hobby, the wives, girlfriends, daughters, etc. do also buy items as presents for their male loved ones. Stocking a selection of items that might catch the lady’s eye as well, such as a selection of ladies’ clothing items, could potentially lead to even further sales when women enter the store with the idea of actually buying for someone else.

The majority of the female customers who visit the respondents’ stores are of an age to have their own families — they fall within the 30-40 year old age group, most (62.5%) of our retail respondents indicated. A fifth of our retail respondents indicated that the majority of their customers are under the age of 30 years old, and only 16.7% of respondents indicated that the majority of their lady shoppers are slightly older (40-50 years old).

Our sport store respondents have more youthful female customers. All sport store respondents indicated that the majority of their female customers fall between the ages of 20-40 — with two thirds of these respondents indicating that the majority of their female shoppers are 30-40 years of age.

“The vast majority (70%) of our female shoppers are around 40-55 years old and are either divorced, widowers or have found their kids have all left the house,” says Leni Hamilton of Hikers Paradise in Centurion. “These women feel that their lives are almost over and they haven’t done anything with it, and decide to embark on an outdoor adventure to either rediscover themselves or prove to themselves that they can do it.”

“The Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain (a multi-day pilgrimage walk) is a popular option for these ladies,” she adds. The majority of their ladies want to experience new adventures. “They see it as a journey and an opportunity to focus on themselves.”

But do not expect them to rough it! She still wants some of her comforts, such as to be able to sleep in a guest house, for example, at the end of the day’s walk, adds Hamilton.

This kind of trip won’t be undertaken with other family members, says Hamilton. “It’s something she is doing for herself. She might invite one or two female friends in a similar situation she is in.”

An important common factor among them all is that they have money and they are also usually not people who have prior experience of outdoor activities. This means that they usually have to buy all their gear from scratch, which allows the retailer to expertly guide the customer to the most appropriate products.

They do not worry about brands, she adds. “As long as it’s the correct product, the woman is happy. These ladies are very open to listening to advice.”

The ladies who shop at Dirt Road Traders in Richards Bay, however, are more outdoorsy people. “The female customers who visit our store mostly know the product they need. They know the quality and price and shop accordingly,” says Henry Rowles of Dirt Road Traders.

Another trend that Hamilton has noticed among her customers is that adult boys will take their mothers on an outdoors trip to hike Kilimanjaro, for example, and often for a milestone birthday such as her 50th. The father is usually very keen to support this mother-son bonding and will support them as well, says Hamilton. But from home.

Age affects habits

Just as there are differences in habits between men and women, there are also different habits among different ages within the same gender. Younger female shoppers are more brand conscious, a respondent who wishes to remain anonymous commented. The majority of the ladies who shop at his lifestyle fashion store are 20 years old or younger.

Younger shoppers also tend to be more price sensitive than older shoppers, according to South African research company WhyFive’s 2013 Fashion Shopper’s consumer report. “What is interesting, however, is that apart from Mr Price and Pick n Pay Clothing, none of the top six stores chosen [by their respondents] are known for offering the best prices — fair prices, but not the best prices. So the rational side of the consumer’s brain is telling them they need to find the best price, but the emotional side is still leading them to buy the things they really want to buy,” the report found.

Female clothing shoppers are also more likely to buy at stores that offer them a variety of styles and options, 39% of consumer respondents in WhyFive’s report indicated.

Those shoppers in the younger age group are also the most likely to be concerned about the location of the store, their report revealed. A convenient store location is important to 34% of young respondents — and almost half (48%) of 16-24 year old respondents indicated it is important to them. “The consumer simply really doesn’t want to waste too much money driving across town to shop for clothes. This has important implications for the notion of stores marketing themselves better within a footprint: local marketing as opposed to (or in addition to) a national effort.”

Also, young people often have to rely on others for transport. The closer the store, the more convenient it is for the person giving the lift — and the more likely the young person will be to get to the store.

Unfortunately it is difficult to discern a shopping trend for younger customers from responses received in our survey, because the stores vary in type (lifestyle, sport, outdoor) and so do the purchases.

Judging from our survey, the older customer (40-50 year old) is more likely to shop at an outdoors-related store. She wants to buy performance clothing and footwear and either shops for a run or an outdoor activity such as camping or fishing, respondents indicated.

Not the shopping masses

Despite the stereotype of women as the shopping gender, based on responses it seems like the majority of shoppers at our participating retailers are still men. Only a fifth of respondents indicated that the majority (more than half) of their customers are female, while the majority of respondents (79.2%) indicated that women account for half or fewer of their customers.

Interestingly, lifestyle fashion clothing and footwear store respondents were also among those who indicated that female customers make up less than half of their customers.

The majority of sport retailers (83.3%) indicated that female customers account for between a quarter and half of their customers. Women shoppers account for between 11-25% of most (42.9%) of outdoor respondents’ customers.

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