In the cliché American family, the wife/mother does the cooking, the cleaning, and the grocery shopping. But, as I think we all know, the “cliché American family” has been in a stage of evolution over the past several decades and roles are much less broadly defined. I’m not trying to start a gender role argument here: I just want to talk about shopping.
A recent stat showed that about 31% of American men now do the grocery shopping for their families, up from about 14% in the 1980s. That’s a pretty big leap- and it will affect how the country’s manufacturers, retailers and marketers do their jobs (well, the smart ones at least). Men shop in different ways than women do, and they’re attracted to different styles of packaging, marketing, etc. In fact, P&G made mention last winter that it was thinking about developing man-specific aisle layouts on behalf of its retailer customers to address the differences in male-female shopping behavior. But those shelves haven’t appeared yet. And now, someone else beat P&G to it. A grocery store on the Upper West Side of NYC just opened a “man aisle” stocked with all the goods the company’s leaders deemed essential for men. The idea is that all the things a man needs are in one central location, making it easy and efficient to grocery shop. The team pointed out that men hate spending a lot of time in stores and don’t like making lists, so it makes it much easier to shop if they simply have to hit up one aisle. The aisle has everything from personal needs items to food.
It’s a pretty cool idea, in my opinion, but it also runs counterintuitive to many key principles of grocery retailing. Most grocery stores employ the “racetrack” layout with categories like produce, meat and dairy making a ring around a “center core” of shelved goods. This layout encourages people to meander the aisles and discover all sorts of products they hadn’t planned on buying. It also forces people to walk all the way around the store to cross off most of the categories on their shopping lists. It’s why milk is all the way in the back of the store, too- you have to pass a lot of other tempting products just to get your “staple.” It’ll be interesting to see if the “man aisle” approach proves just as effective for encouraging sales, just for a different target. The racetrack was likely created with the female shopper mindset as its guide. If it’s true that men are more inclined to impulse purchases but less inclined to spend a lot of time in the store (as P&G claimed), perhaps pushing all the product to one place makes sense. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, if you’re in NYC- check out the aisle and report back!