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Men Are from Mars (and Shop at the Last Minute)

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Data from the NRF shows men are still slower to get their shopping done

December 20, 2016 |

Retailers hustling to win last-minute sales during the final countdown to the Christmas holiday may be wise to aim their marketing messages and product pitches to a particular shopping demographic: men.

The conventional notion that men are procrastinators when it comes to shopping seems to be holding true again this year. The gap between men and women isn’t dramatic but it seems to be pretty steady.

A National Retail Federation survey of almost 6,900 U.S. adults conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics in the first week of December found that 16.6% of men said they hadn’t started their holiday shopping, compared to 13.6% of women. That was similar to the trend NRF observed in the past. In the five years through 2015 on average, one in four men waited until December to start their holiday shopping, compared to 17% of women, NRF data showed.

While nearly 48% of women in the latest December survey said they have completed more than half of their holiday shopping in early December, men trailed at almost 42%. Their excuse? For those who had 50% or less of their holiday shopping wrapped up, men tended to cite reasons that smacked of procrastination, saying that they relished the “thrill of last-minute shopping,” or calling holiday shopping “a necessary evil” that they put off for as long as possible.

In fact, some 51.2% of men (compared to 48.3% of women) said they expect to buy the last holiday gift between Monday and Sunday, with another 5.2% of men (vs 3.8% of women) not expecting to shell out for their final holiday purchase until even after the Christmas holiday.

But it looks like another key reason is that men don’t have the same shopping responsibility.

“The average woman buys Christmas gifts for 5 to 11 people,” said Britt Beemer, chairman and founder of consumer research and consulting firm America’s Research Group, in an interview. “Men buy for one or two. They can wait till the last minute. Men typically allow their wives to buy what they want. You don’t see many fathers buying their children Christmas gifts.”

As more men buy online, they are getting better about shopping before the last possible moment, Beemer said.

Getting the last-minute shoppers’ wallet share is crucial for retailers. ShopperTrak data showed six of the top 10 busiest shopping days of this year would take place between this past Saturday, so-called Super Saturday, and Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, when shoppers are armed with gift cards to spend.

Men aren’t just procrastinators. They also pay less attention to bargains. For instance, while 77% of women said they would use coupons received by mail during the holiday season, only 65% of men said they would do that, according to Epsilon’s 2016 online holiday shopping survey of 2,300 U.S. consumers. Men also lag women when it comes to doing online price comparisons, printing and using coupons received by email or found online and doing price matching at stores.

—Andria Cheng

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