It’s big news to retailers: men are no longer the hapless dolts of the household.
They can finally be trusted to walk into a supermarket with a list and walk out with more than chips, bacon, and beer.
Just a few years ago stores were rolling out man aisles.
2011 was the year that men first surpassed women as the likely primary shopper of their household and retailers were scrambling for ways to broaden their man appeal. Studies were commissioned and theories were trotted out, and they latched onto the old chestnut of men as hunters and women as gatherers. Shopping was seen as a modern adaptation of our species’ ancestral skills and the theory goes that man has no interest in strolling the aisles. He’s programmed to treat the supermarket like a prehistoric hunter; he should get in and out quickly and stay in safe territory. These days instead of a gazelle one in ten men is on the hunt for a good under-eye cream to reduce puffiness, but the male ego still needs reassurance that they’re not performing ‘women’s work.’ Stores like Target, CVS, and Wal-Mart established their man aisles as safe havens within their stores where men wouldn’t have to encounter troubling lady things like Tampax and mustache bleach, or be led astray by probiotic yogurt and frilly tarragon leaves.
Gone are the days of dopey dads and ‘honey-do’ lists.
Grocery shopping is now evenly shared in most households, and among millennials it’s predominantly a male domain. And except for their resistance to coupons (most men say it makes them feel like a cheapskate), their shopping habits and patterns are nearly indistinguishable from women’s. Men and women grocery shop with the same frequency and spending differences are narrowing. They’re in a virtual lockstep when it comes to engagement and concerns for the role food plays in the household’s well-being. They choose fresh ingredients over processed the same rate, and assign similar values to local foods, nutrition quality, and branded goods.
As the stereotypes fall, so go the man aisles.
When we shop for food for ourselves and our families, we’re driven by needs that transcend gender. It’s nice to see the supermarkets finally got the memo.