Following The Rise Of The Supermarket ‘Man Aisle’

The 21st century continues to redefine the roles that men and women are supposed to play in society. For example, women have become increasingly involved in the workplace and men are participating a lot more in domestic chores such as grocery shopping. According to consumer-research firm GK MRI and an ESPN report, 31 percent of men nationwide were the primary household grocery shoppers in 2011, up from 14 percent in 1985. Another survey conducted by Yahoo and market research firm DB5 said that 51 percent of fathers were the primary grocery shoppers in their household.1 The fact remains that grocery stores have been traditionally tailored for women, and haven’t changed much to welcome their male guests.
Some retailers are beginning to take notice of the increasing number of unwieldy men coming through their doors, and are assisting them in their journey into uncharted territory. Change is under way and several retailers are implementing “man aisles” in order to ease the grocery shopping experience for men.

Proctor and Gamble Co. began exploring this idea in 2009 with several focus groups. They realized that men’s personal care products were scattered through the store in subprime locations, making it very difficult to find. As a result, they have created a “man aisle” in which men can find, browse and compare products without having to look through countless feminine products.2
A consumer research-study conducted by Schnucks Markers found another unique male shopping behavior; men like to spend less time in the grocery store. Only about one in four men (24 percent) shop for 46 minutes or longer, compared to 42 percent of women. In addition, men appear to be less organized when shopping and more likely to experiment with different products, while women like to shop according to an established list of items.3 When it comes to food grocery shopping, men are more likely to be influenced by impulse than their female counterparts who follow their lists closely. Kraft, for example, has strategically displayed its cooking cream next to chicken since it realized that men like to personalize their meals and will seize the opportunity to create an original dish.4 Super Market News reported that Westside Market in New York City has also realized that men don’t shop with lists and is trying to facilitate their shopping experience with a “man aisle.” This area is positioned strategically near refrigerated beer, and has snacks, personal care products, cereal, charcoal and other essentials. The shelfstable display cannot support perishable fare, but complementary steak sauce, hamburger buns and barbecue sauce help trigger meal ideas.5 Grocery stores can benefit enormously by paying more attention to male shoppers, from their marketing strategy to the layout of the store. Although it would be extremely challenging to split the grocery store by gender, man aisles are a fantastic option to improve shopping ease for men. In addition, if men are also venturing into the kitchen, the grocery store can help in the process by grouping specific meats, side dishes, salads, sauces, desserts and even drinks that go well together. Instead of shopping around for all these items in different aisles, grocery stores could offer everything needed to prepare an amazing meal in one aisle: the sauce, the bread, cheese and wine that will tie the meal together. Overall, the idea is simple. Men dislike spending too much time in the grocery store, but would still like to take home foods and ingredients that would allow them to add their personal touch to their meals. All areas in the foodservice industry can capitalize on this trend by inspiring men to personalize their own meals while allowing them to connect the dots, even though they may be side-by-side.

Bakeries are probably the next frontier in men’s grocery shopping journey. An unexplored area for men but one that contains items many men enjoy – sweets; this section of the grocery store could be more welcoming. Traditionally the bakery area gives way to sweets such as mousses, éclairs, birthday cakes and cupcakes, and cookies. While the classics can attract any passersby, the bakery is an area where the display says it all and catering some dessert options to men may help the bakery area to become an indulgent point for both sexes. Carefully crafting “man-friendly” desserts such as bacon-inspired sweets or the classic donut can contribute to the customization they crave. As mentioned previously, men would be a lot more proud in taking home an original dessert with their personal touch, instead of a frozen cake taken straight out of the freezer. Whether men personalize the desserts inside the store or at home, the option should be provided. And don’t forget that men are visual beings, therefore the more attractive and inspiring a display of goodies is the more likely they are to stop and contemplate buying.

Consumer patterns are changing in the least expected places, begging retailers to adapt and make way for these new developments. Women are still the top consumers, perhaps, but getting a bite out of every dollar available is a goal that can only be accomplished by catering to everyone’s unique experiences. Making groceries more “man-friendly” is an idea that’s catching on fast.