Male-only shopping domains and gender-specific products represent a major growth area for start-up retailers, a business and marketing academic has claimed.
Dr Gary Mortimer, from the School of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations at Queensland University of Technology, says some male shoppers are hesitant to shop for products, or in shopping aisles, associated with women.
“Past research has shown that there is a group of male shoppers who have a ‘fear of the feminine’ or fear shopping among women’s health products,” he says.
Mortimer says it makes sense for some retailers to consider the influence of gender, rather than categories, when devising their store layout.
He says while the concept of a “men’s zone” might seem revolutionary for most stores, retailers that have adopted the store-within-a-store model have seen an increase in sales.
“A gender-specific aisle would provide a relief to men, inspiring them to explore and discover new products,” he says.
Mortimer says male grooming represents a multibillion industry in Australia, citing research from the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, which says the market is doubling every year.
He argues that as male shoppers become increasingly discerning, other retailers will respond with gender-specific offerings, either in the form of products or store fit-outs.
“Retail liquor, for example, is typically a grid-style layout, so retailers could easily create an area specifically targeted at that market,” he says.
“There are also opportunities for niche markets; I recently saw a tiny store that only sold single malt scotch whiskeys.”
Entrepreneurs in the US are already cashing in on the concept of gender-specific offerings, with 13-year-old Hart Main creating “manly” candles to bring a masculine edge to an otherwise feminine product.
Main got the idea for his “Mancans” while ridiculing his sister’s girly-scented candles. He divides his candle scents into three categories: things men can eat, things men like and things man can do.
Similarly, Coke Zero was initially marketed towards male consumers after it was revealed some men associate Diet Coke with women due to the word “diet”.
Colin McLeod, executive director at the Australian Centre for Retail Studies, says the gender-specific concept will be helped along by the growth of location-based marketing.
“Customers are able to walk into a department store with their smartphone, which can tell them exactly where a product is located and what brands are available,” he says.
“Contrary to popular belief, men are more likely to impulse-buy than women. So if products are arranged by gender rather than by category, this could potentially increase sales, particularly because of the emergence of the new male market.”