His and Hers Shopping Rules – The Wall Street Journal

September 6, 2012

We are very excited to announce that our CEO Brett Beveridge was quoted on a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.  Take a look at the article titled His and Hers Shopping Rules below. Way to go Brett!

The Wall Street JournalBusiness His and Hers Shopping Rules By Sanette Tanaka
1073 words
5 September 2012
The Wall Street Journal Online
Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Stores are finally recognizing what seems like a basic fact of retail: Men and women shop differently.

Faced with increasing competition from online retailers, some bricks-and-mortar retailers are embracing a practice known as gender-based selling, where stores aim to lure men and women to shop by focusing on their differences. Knowing that men hate to browse, a store may group all its men’s products in one location close to the entrance, and knowing women like suggestions, it may train associates to offer product alternatives.

While some retailers are hesitant about a sales strategy that essentially says to treat men and women differently, others have embraced it as a progressive model to offer the best customer experience.

“The traditional sales model, where you treat every single person like an average consumer, doesn’t make any sense,” says Barbara Kahn, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jay H. Baker Retailing Center, which published one of the first studies on gender differences in the shopping experience. The study found women are most affected by personal interactions with sales associates, while men are affected by pragmatic factors, like the availability of products and parking spaces.

“We can’t do one size fits all anymore. Women are risk-averse, and will want to know more about the features and benefits of the product,” says Delia Passi, CEO of WomenCertified, a research and consumer advocacy group. Making the store experience more interactive—”touching a fabric, staging it with matching bags—will prompt [a woman] to want to buy more.”

Men, on the other hand, just want to know where the product is and they “want their areas clearly defined,” Ms. Passi says. To men, the worst outcome is to walk out of a store empty-handed, she says. Ms. Passi says requests for her company’s training in gender-based selling have increased tenfold over the past decade. Her clients range from apparel retailers to automotive companies.

Brett Beveridge, founder and CEO of Retail Outsource Co., a sales-performance company in Coral Gables, Fla., says nearly all his clients are asking for training in gender-based selling. Mr. Beveridge advises clients—from big-box electronic retailers to service providers—on how men and women respond to particular service and design choices. To cater to men, for example, he tells retailers to put information on fact boards near the products, so men don’t have to ask questions of associates. Men “like to feel that they’re competent and know the answers,” he says.

Drawing from her training in gender-based selling with Ms. Passi’s company last year, Judith Schumacher Tilton, dealer principal of Tilton Automotive Group, which operates two dealerships in Little Falls and Denville, both in N.J., says she is a strong proponent for colors on the showroom floor. When she got the newest Chevrolet Spark in July, she lined up techno pink and jalapeño green versions of the vehicle outside her dealership that day. Ms. Tilton says the colors and display helped sell the cars more quickly than other model launches, even before they were advertised. “When women came in, it was the first thing they saw. We sold them right away,” she says.

Jim Dunn, vice president and general manager of JM Lexus in Miami, who has been a client of Ms. Passi’s for the past three years. changed the way his associates deal with men and women and revamped the showroom floor. Before, associates would discuss the features and gadgets of the car with men, but Ms. Passi’s training revealed that approach works better with women. “Now we make sure we give 60, 70, 80 % of the conversation to our female customers,” he says.

Kathy Kraft, 52 and from Portland, Ore., enjoys scouring through stores to find that perfect item. “I like the hunt,” Ms. Kraft says. She often shops with her friends and is friendly with her personal shopper at Nordstrom. One of her favorite stores, White House Black Market, a boutique-style clothing store with a primarily female clientele, plays up the social factor. Associates encourage women to model their clothes in front of the large mirror in the center of the store. The chain also emphasizes visually appealing displays by arranging complete outfits together.

While Nordstrom says its overall approach isn’t gender-specific, it makes changes based on the behavior it sees from male and female shoppers. Last fall, Nordstrom moved men’s grooming products and fragrances into the men’s department after the store found through customer feedback that men would rather shop for all their items in one area. It also made what it calls “girlfriend dressing rooms” that are oversize and are separated just by curtain dividers so women can easily chat and share outfits. “We’ve learned that women like shopping together,” says John Bailey, a spokesman. “It gives them some privacy but allows them to show their clothes to each other.”

To become more female-friendly, Lowe’s began displaying finished projects, like kitchen vignettes, “so you can start to envision how it looks at home,” says Melissa Birdsong, vice president of Lowe’s. Shelves used to be 16 feet tall around the store’s perimeter and 12 feet in the aisles. The company lowered the racks to as low as 4½ feet in some areas. “What we heard from customers, mostly women, was that [higher racks were] very intimidating,” Ms. Birdsong says.

Not all stores have embraced gender-based selling because it can be time-consuming and expensive, due to training costs and a high sales-associate turnover rate. In addition, some companies are hesitant to advertise a policy founded on treating men and women differently. Home Depot spokeswoman Jean Niemi says the store, “which is first and foremost a working warehouse,” doesn’t differentiate based on gender. “We don’t look at it like men vs. women,” she says.

Jason Luna, 37, of Pine Bush, N.Y., says he prefers to shop solo, while his wife Mary “enjoys the process more.” “I’m generally annoyed by active sellers,” he says.

Still, Mr. Luna hesitates at the concept of gender-based selling. “There are definite differences between men and women,” he says. “But on the other hand, I feel uncomfortable about a practice that automatically assumes differences.”

Write to Sanette Tanaka at sanette.tanaka@wsj.com