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Women may shop, but are retailers fit to serve, asks Deakin academic

8 June 2011

Women might be being touted as the saviours of Australian retail industry's economic doldrums but the industry needs to get smarter about how it reaches them or they may just turn to the gym instead, Deakin University's retail expert Dr Stella Minahan says.

"With the increased entry of international retailers and online shopping there is more and more need to educate retailers in all aspects of the industry," Dr Minahan said.

"The United States insists on well qualified senior management whereas that has not been the case for Australia."

Dr Minahan and her co-author Michigan State University's Patricia Huddleston have just published a new book Consumer Behaviour - Women and Shopping - which looks at the evolution of shopping and the reasons why women go shopping.

While the book is primarily aimed at a US market and is based on the latest US data Dr Minahan said she and Professor Huddleston had found very similar traits in US shoppers as Dr Minahan had identified in Australian, British and New Zealand shoppers several years ago.

"There are some differences more related to the mobility of the American population but the lessons for retailers span the globe," she said.

"One which immediately springs to mind is that retailing is a global business, US retailers are being exposed to this research and upgrading their retail skills through systematic education, my question here is are you?"

Dr Minahan said women globally were expected to contribute $28 trillion to the retail spending by 2014.

"Once upon a time the shops were the treasured third place for women, they were greeted by big opulent merchandise displays, reading rooms, lounges, health and beauty services, exhibitions and shows," she said.

"While the new shopping centres provide a range of stores, they don't quite provide that level of personal facilities for women.

"The gym however does.

"For the retail industry an understanding of women, their motivations and preferences for shopping is critical.

"Women will determine whether a retail business survives, thrives or fails."

Dr Minahan said broadly women shopped for seven main reasons:
• functional necessity
• to be with family; there is a strong tradition of mother and daughters shopping together
• positive distraction from the tensions of every day life
• as a treat to reward oneself for an achievement or to feel better (retail therapy)
• to stimulate the senses by exploring the latest in trends
• for social connection, elderly women and those aged 12 to 19 use shopping in similar ways, for both it's about relieving boredom but for the elderly it's a way of getting out of the house, for the younger group it's a diversion
• for a sense of control, women can use shopping to manage a negative situation or express her financial independence

Dr Minahan said retailers also needed to think about how their store layout affected different types of women shoppers.

"How you have the store laid out, how you manage your return policies, what your sales people do or don't do and whether you harness the shopping power of several generations shopping together will determine whether women spend their money and time with you or at the new emerging 'third' place – the gym."

Further information

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News facts
  • Retailers need to get smarter at engaging with women shoppers
  • New US book looks at the evolution of shopping and why women shop
  • To shop or go to the gym could become the question in the future

Media contact

Sandra Kingston
Deakin Media Relations
03 9246 8221/0422 005 485
sandra.kingston@deakin.edu.aul

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7th June 2011