Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Women cut back more than men, survey says

January 27, 2010

Gender differences are playing out at stores and restaurants across the country, economically speaking.

shopping bagMore women than men cut spending “moderately to significantly” last year – 72 percent of women versus 62 percent of men – according to a new survey being released by Empathica.

“The fact is women still bear more of the responsibility for households than men,” and are being “more cautious” about their spending outlook, said Gary Edwards, Empathica’s vice president of client services.

The amount people cut back did not surprise Richard Hastings, consumer strategist with Global Hunter Securities LLC. What matters for merchants, brands and marketing analysis is the “enduring nature of this attitude,” he said.

A few years back, high gas prices spurred by Hurricane Katrina did not alter the nature of the consumer’s behavior. Now, however, that nature is “more fragile,” he said.

“We now exist in more precarious consumer economy, more vulnerable to external shocks and volatility,” Hastings said.

While U.S. consumer confidence just hit a 16-month high, concerns about the sustainability of a recovery persist.

The survey found the biggest discrepancy in spending came in convenience stores, where 43.1 percent of men cut back, while 53.4 percent of women did the same. Restaurants, grocery stores and department stores were other areas where women cut back substantially more than men did.

The only areas where spending was largely not impacted by gender differences were gas stations, bars, hotels and airlines, Empathica’s Edwards said.

Coupons were a bigger draw for women. Of those surveyed, 48.3 percent of women said that a coupon would be the best way to entice them to try out a new restaurant. Just 39.8 percent of men agreed.

Consumers who cut back in 2009 said their top concerns, in order, were: debt, job security, health and the economy.

“It’s become very personal to people, the state that they find themselves in,” Edwards said.

Not surprisingly, consumers in the Western part of the United States cut back the most. Seventy percent of those respondents lowered their spending, compared with 65 percent in the Midwest and Northeast, and 68 percent in the South.

The Empathica Consumer Insights Survey, conducted from late November into December, is based on responses from more than 7,200 American consumers.

(Reuters photo)

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