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On the Hunt: How Men Shop for Valentine’s Day

A look at men’s Valentine’s Day shopping habits may offer insights into how this half of your customer base thinks during the rest of the year, new research finds.

More than anything else, men want to be sure that what they buy their Valentine will not be rejected. That is, apparently, why many men consider jewelry to be a safe Valentine’s Day purchase, according to Nelson Barber, associate professor  at the University of New Hampshire, who conducted the research.

“Women like jewelry – or at least men think they do – and men want reassurance that their taste in jewelry is not poorly judged. In other words, men will take the path of least resistance and purchase an item that will have the least amount of social interaction with sales personnel and lowest probability of rejection from their loved one,” Barber said. “Essentially, men tend to spend money on larger, less risky items that ultimately have the ‘wow’ factor.

“Men will avoid that risky purchase of a sweater that looks like something her grandmother would wear or a sexy item that only certain movie stars would wear. Men fear the ‘why did you purchase that’ or ‘this is really nice of you’ as she puts it in the back of her closet,” Barber said.

When it comes to selecting that Valentine’s Day gift, men and women usually approach the process entirely differently. Women, Barber said, are more like foragers while men are more like hunters.

Women are happy to forage around sprawling clothing and accessory collections or take the long way around through the shoe department. They like to spray a perfume sample on themselves on their way to making a purchase. On the other hand, men consider the shopping experience as a mission, much like hunting. They find a targeted item, make the kill – the purchase – and leave the store as quickly as possible,” Barber said.

Women react strongly to personal interaction with sales associates. In fact, allegiance to a store is related to sales associates' familiarity with the products and an ability to determine what products best suit their needs, Barber said. Women shoppers typically also value sales associates who make them feel important.

For many men, such situations are uncomfortable. While many men would love to purchase a sexy item or even something as simple as a sweater for their mate, they find engaging with a sales clerk for such an intimate item socially challenging, according to Barber.

“Men are more likely to respond to the utilitarian aspects of the experience – such as the availability of parking, whether the item they are seeking is in stock, and the length of the checkout line. Women in many ways are more invested and engaged in the shopping experience, while men want to buy a specific item and get out,” Barber said.

Interestingly, the way men shop on the Internet is very similar to their in-store shopping habits, Barber added. On the other hand, women have no problem “foraging” on the Internet , and tools that allow for viewing different colors, styles, and accessories provide this avenue of shopping.

Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at jmulvey@techmedianetwork.com.

Jeanette Mulvey
Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.