Monday, 19 April 2010

Reversal Of The Sexes

Supermarket shopping with my dad a few weekends ago for the first time in years was both enlightening and entertaining. I discovered that I am even more man than I had ever thought.

Over the phone, I had been given the instruction “Tell your father to stop and get cat food and something to eat tonight.” Seems simple enough right? Just a quick stop. Wrong.

Wandering around the aisles of the enormous Sainsbury's locating the cat food became less important than browsing the toiletries aisle and grabbing at luxury self-indulgent items. Our hand-basket was overflowing with items and I was left clutching the excess, having to prop the cat food we finally selected last under both my arms. Our pet food aisle stop was hilarious. I never imaged shopping with Old Dear could be such fun. I was amazed by how long he took to choose a few boxes of cat food sachets, clearly overwhelmed by the choice. As an in-and-out shopper, I had quickly located the cheapest option but was told “the cats are fussy and won't like it, they have expensive tastes”. We walked along the aisle watching the feline models getting younger until we reached the kitten section still undecided but imagining the oldest of our cats, Jenny, doing the shopping and receiving her OAP's discount. Finally at least 30 minutes after arriving we settled on a more expensive brand and a cheaper one to try them out on.

I am not a good cook, mainly because I don't try and prefer to spend my time doing other things. Don't get me wrong – I love eating, in fact I love it far too much, to the detriment of my clothes and figure. When I food shop there is no list involved but I have an idea of how many days I am buying for and the kinds of items that I want. Quickly locating these items and the cheapest brands, I am keen to get out of there.

After my hilarious shopping trip with my dad that concluded with both of us in fits of laughter in the pet food aisle, I decided to check out the stats on male shoppers. I found a helpful article at that told me more than half of men claim to do 60% or more of the family shopping, while more than 85% of women say they do most of the shopping.

Men get lost in today's fast-paced supermarkets, says David W. Stewart, the Robert E. Brooker Professor of Marketing at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business: "More and more men are picking up items at the grocery store but they are frequently following the instructions of the female in the household. Traditionally, the woman was the decision maker and shopper. Now the female is still the primary decision maker, but the shopping is more often shared by two individuals."

David Mick, PhD, professor of marketing at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce and president-elect of the Association for Consumer Research agrees, saying: "There is no doubt that men's and women's shopping roles have changed. Men are more often going into grocery stores and buying categories of things they would not have bought a generation ago. It has been going on for the last 20 years, and has been steadily rising but that is a much more modest phenomenon than the rising trend of the female giving the male a list - complete with brand names. Men tend to go after specific grocery items while women are more likely to browse but it is not that males are more decisive, they are basically following orders. Women in many families are probably still expected to be the primary procurer of goods for the household; You might say it serves them in that role to have a wider radar of what is in the store and what is good for the household."

From this research it seems Old Dear and I have undergone gender expectation role-reversal. He was given a list that he followed and significantly embellished on while my average food shop is a quick affair with a mental check list closely followed. Perhaps all this will change when I have a family to cater for but in the meantime, I think perhaps it is best if Old Dear is confined to online shopping.

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