IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 19 Mar 2012

Online Only Shoppers

According to recent Shoppercentric research, young men seem to be exempt from most of the traditional clichés surrounding the male species and shopping. In a recent study, 22% of men aged 25-34 agreed with the statement that they love making shopping a social event. However the same study found that online is often the preferred channel for the male shopper. Apparently 54% of men browse the internet every couple of days, compared with 47% of women.

A male acquaintance of mine (let’s call him A for the sake of anonymity) is 25, so falls into the lower end of the above age bracket. Living in a small town, he rarely visits clothes shops, and has instead purchased most of his clothes online ever since he started buying them for himself. Due to this, I discovered on a recent shopping trip with A that he was unaware of many of the traditional conventions of bricks and mortar stores, in the same way that my 80 year old grandmother is unaware of the process involved in buying clothes via an ecommerce website.

During the shopping trip in question, A was looking for an outfit for a specific occasion, I dragged him to a busy town centre to track this down. A was reluctant to try anything on before buying it, as this is obviously something he is not used to doing when shopping online. Being bossy however, I suggested that he may as well, as we had plenty of time and it would reduce the likelihood of somebody having to return the items at a later date because the fit wasn’t right.

Willing to give this new experience a try, A picked up more clothes than he actually needed and took them into the changing room. When A came out of said changing room and was asked by a shop assistant whether the items were any good, he replied “yes”. I was surprised by this, but assumed that he had fallen in love with the items so wanted to buy them all. When questioned however, A said that he didn’t want to purchase all of the clothes that he was carrying. When I enquired why he hadn’t given the unwanted items back to the shop assistant at the entrance to the changing room when prompted to; A looked completely baffled. Apparently he was unaware that this was standard practice in clothes shops, and assumed that if he didn’t want something he had tried on, he was expected to go and put it back in the exact spot where he had found it.

When queuing up to buy a garment that he did want, A began to look agitated, and suggested that we go and line up elsewhere. Again, I wasn’t sure of the reason for this, as the queue wasn’t very long, so I thought that maybe there was somebody at the counter who A wanted to avoid. I discretely asked if this was the case, and A said no – it was because that he had seen a sign above the till saying “cash desk”, and he wanted to use his credit card to make the purchase. I tried to explain that the words “cash desk” were just another way of saying “till”. However in some ways A’s assumption made sense – when buying online, the ways in which you can pay are maybe better signposted than they are in store.

In recent months, there has been much hype about online channels killing off the high street. However the fact that I am roughly the same age as A, yet found his shopping behaviour highly unusual, means that preferred purchasing channels are not necessarily linked with age. If it was left solely up to A, traditional high street fashion retail might die out, but it’s not. I used the example of my own grandmother earlier; however the ‘silver surfer’ phenomenon proves that other people of her age are embracing newer methods of shopping.

Do you conform to gender or age stereotypes with your attitude towards retail therapy, or do you break the mould? Please feel free to post your comments below or email …I think A deserves a gift after being analysed like a lab rat in this article, so I’d better start shopping!

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