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August 02, 2021

Why men buy and women shop

It's probably not news to you that men and women shop very differently.

Researchers at the Wharton School found that most women browsed until they had seen most of the things in the store compared to only 33 percent of men. As a result, they frequently roll up much larger bills than planned whereas men simply head for big-ticket items to begin with.

They also found that women are much more likely going to respond to friendly sales associates, while men are more concerned with the availability of parking, whether the item is in stock or how many people are in the checkout line – known in the trade as ‘purpose-driven’ shopping.

The research team hypothesized that being in these possibility- or purpose-driven mindsets might influence how people made subsequent, unrelated decisions. And they were right.

According to Wharton marketing professor Stephen J. Hoch, this shopping behaviour mirrors gender differences throughout many aspects of life: "Women think of shopping in an interpersonal, human fashion and men treat it as more instrumental. It's a job to get done," he says.

Most men shop reluctantly, cautiously, infrequently and alone. And so it’s been since prehistoric times, maintains University of Michigan’s Daniel Kruger.

Men were hunters, women were foragers, he says. As a result, women would spend hours trying to find the right outfit, present or object, because they had in the past spent ages trying to find the best quality foods.

Men, on the other hand, decided in advance what animal they wanted to kill and then went looking for it. Once it was found and killed, they returned home – to watch TV presumably.

Tell us: Are men and women really so different when it comes to shopping? What are things like around your house?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...