Rapaport Magazine

Men Go Shopping

Male shoppers make presence in retail world

By Phyllis Schiller
RAPAPORT... Metrosexual, Xoomer…whatever catchall label is au courant, one conclusion is clear: Male shoppers, ages 25 to 39, are making their presence felt in the retail world. 

Traditionally, shopping has always been considered more a “she” activity than a “he” pastime. But today, those preconceptions are falling by the wayside. “There are a lot of labels that are being put on men — as men and as shoppers — that are sort of misleading and stopping things from moving ahead,” points out Marie Tupot, research director of scenarioDNA, a brand consultancy in New York City. “What we’re finding is that what is evolving is basically a more educated shopper. Historically, shopping purchases are influenced by women. And now you’re getting men more involved, and they have more information at their access. They keep talking about the Metrosexual consumer, but at the heart of that is an educated consumer, somebody who’s learning and taking things in.”


According to a consumer trend study conducted by GQ magazine last fall, it’s not the Boomers but the young Gen X men ages 29 to 39 they’ve termed “Xoomers” (pronounced Zoomers) who are the market segment to watch for in luxury goods, outspending the Baby Boomers by 15 percent. In the jewelry category, that differential soars to 41 percent. What drives their purchases, according to the survey, are “value, durability, reliability and functionality.” Products that they perceive as expressing their personal style are high on their list — they’re 80 percent more likely to choose products that express their own unique sensibility.

And that makes these male shoppers, according to Michael O’Connor, senior vice president, Platinum Guild International (PGI), a natural market for fine jewelry. Unfortunately, though, he says, “the men’s jewelry market, from a fine jewelry perspective, is probably one of the most underutilized categories in the industry.”


“I think culturally,” O’Connor goes on to say, “we are definitely in an era that says that it’s okay for men to wear jewelry. Gone are the days when men wearing jewelry were looked down upon. As a matter of fact, right now, it’s looked upon as being quite sexy.” In short, today’s young men are comfortable buying the bling.

“Things are changing,” O’Connor adds. A watch needs to do more than just tell them the time; it has to fit their personalities. “It’s the bling effect of rappers that’s trickling down to men. They may not be overly adorned but their one item would be a statement.”


“I think it goes back to what’s really appropriate for a male and I suspect there needs to be a lot more attention paid to the nature of the design; it might need to be more subtle for many of the males as opposed to being something that will be flaunted,” explains David Stewart, professor and chairman of the department of marketing, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. “People still need an expressive outlet, but it might have changed a bit. Some of this is generational, that’s why the design becomes important. The younger generation would prefer to be seen as less flaunting. The appeal would not be ‘wear this diamond pinky ring because it demonstrates how successful you are,’ but a more symbolic appeal might work very well, ‘wear this as a signature of your love and adoration for a significant other.”

“The problem that we’re finding with men,” says Tupot, “is that one thing hasn’t changed: they’re not very quick to ask for directions — they want a lot of information but nobody is really giving it to them and they’re not asking. So that’s where there’s a disconnect.”

One of the things that PGI realized, according to O’Connor, is that “the voice that you speak to a man in has got to be different than the voice you speak to a woman with, because of the difference in the way they want to get information. The biggest misstep is not to speak to men. That’s the one the industry is suffering from mainly. And the second is to speak to men in romantic terms. They’re interested in the functionality of the piece and how it’s going to make them look. They don’t want all of this flowery language. They want it much more straightforward.”

When men shop, O’Connor says, “They tend to determine a need and how to fill it. Or what they do is say, ‘Okay, this is something I’ve seen on somebody else and I would like to have a similar look.’ I think there is a difference between the male and female shopper, but I think the lines are blurring. I think men are spending more time shopping than in previous years.”

Younger men, explains Tupot, are more open to the experience of shopping. “When it comes to jewelry, the internet is informational but they’ll make the purchase in a store. Service is important and sets it apart from going to Costco. But it has to be in a way that doesn’t talk down to them. If a guy leaves a store and feels empowered and not pressured, that’s a big deal. If men think they found a source, they’ll go back to it. But the moment that that source steps out of line, there’s no second chance from a younger consumer today.”


Thirty-five and under is where the movement of change is, Tupot explains. “So the roughhewn kind of guy’s-guy advertising isn’t resonating. And the very girl-centric advertising is getting lost. What we’re finding when we do research is that guys love to see pictures of girls online when they’re going for things, but it’s not helping them to remember the brands.”

One way to pique young men’s interest, Tupot says, might be to “source a local celebrity to come up with a collection that’s authentic. Anything that anyone introduces has to be complete and authentic. It can’t just have a name slapped on it. Developing collections and offering certain exclusives, limited editions, and letting customers know that they are part of an inner circle are helpful to maintaining loyalty.”

Moreover, points out PGI’s O’Connor, more and more younger male celebrities in Hollywood are wearing jewelry. “Johnny Depp is very much an iconic figure. He’s also looked upon as being very masculine and also still very much in touch with himself, and he wears a tremendous amount of jewelry. All the rap stars are not afraid to wear jewelry and a lot of it. Then you have the more conservative celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, who doesn’t wear a tremendous amount of jewelry per se but will wear a pendant, will wear a bracelet. But he’s a huge watch collector.

“A number of years ago when PGI started our celebrity program, probably about 5 percent of the jewelry we chose was men’s jewelry. Over time, that’s really grown, and now it represents 15 to 20 percent of all the jewelry we have at our celebrity dressing events. And it still could go up from there.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - May 2007. To subscribe click here.

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