Lost in the Supermarket: Men Without Lists
Men are shopping more, but women still make the grocery decisions.
What's the worst thing a woman can tell a man?
If it's a healthy, economical meal she wants, "Get
something for dinner on the way home" can be a recipe for disaster.
Why? In most families -- even those in which men buy the
groceries -- women still make the shopping decisions. Without a list, men get
lost in today's fast-paced supermarkets, says David W. Stewart, the Robert E.
Brooker Professor of Marketing the Marshall School of Business at the
University of Southern California.
"More and more men are picking up items at the grocery
store," Stewart tells WebMD. "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."
Men and Women in the Grocery Aisles
More and more men have been doing more and more grocery
shopping. It's not a new trend, says 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.
"There is no doubt that men's and women's shopping roles
have changed," Mick tells WebMD. "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
More than half of men say they do 60% or more of their family's
grocery shopping. The numbers don't exactly add up: More than 85% of women say
they do most of their family's shopping. Still, a lot of men are pushing
fleets of shopping carts through many miles of grocery aisles.
And yes, Stewart admits, more men than ever before are making
the decisions on which groceries to buy.
"But that is a much more modest phenomenon than the rising
trend of the female giving the male a list -- complete with brand names to
buy," he says.
What about the "Mars/Venus" stereotypes? Aren't men the
brave hunters who plunge into the wild aisles to emerge triumphant with exactly
what they came for? Aren't women the nurturing gatherers who patiently browse
"Yes, it's true that men tend to go after specific grocery
items while women are more likely to browse," Stewart notes. "But it is
not that males are more decisive. They are basically following orders."
"Men and women probably do shop a bit differently in
grocery stores on average," Mick agrees. "Women probably are less
dominated by a top-down, purposive approach to shopping. They probably would be
a little more exploratory. ... 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."