Equality of the sexes, at least at local shopping centers: AUB study

Men were more inclined than women to have a plan before getting to the store.

BEIRUT: Turns out the mall may be the great equalizer when it comes to the sexes in Lebanon.

A study by two business professors at American University of Beirut showed very little difference between the shopping habits of men and women, defying the long-held assumption that “women shop and men buy,” according to a Friday news release from AUB. The study also contradicted previous reports by top business journals that suggested women are a unique economy, the researchers said.

With the help of students from the Olayan School of Business, professors Laurence Leigh and Leila Hanna-Khauli, studied 400 groups of shoppers in both fashion and sports stores around Beirut. They first presented their research in January, as part of the 14th International Marketing Trends Conference in Venice.

The study concluded that the sexes spend equal time and money when they visit stores.

“These results were not at all what we expected,” Leigh said.

To gather information, the researchers observed the groups, asking them questions about their purchases. Men were more inclined than women to have a plan before getting to the store. But once inside the sexes spent similar time shopping; they also strayed from their shopping lists to similar degrees.

Indeed, a surprising detail among the men studied was that when they made unplanned purchases, they spent more than women. “This suggests that male shoppers may actually be better targets for promoting ‘impulse items,’” Leigh said.

The findings are particularly interesting given articles published in journals such as Harvard Business Review, which Leigh said described women as such a distinct economy “that it represented a bigger opportunity than China and India combined. ... Our study suggests that gender-related differences in shopping behaviors are much more nuanced than that.”

Leigh, an assistant professor at AUB, has had a long career in consulting on international marketing issues and successfully helped launch a number of startups. His research partner Khauli-Hanna also teaches marketing and has spearheaded classes at AUB about marketing and social media. Her interests focus on creative industries like fragrance and fashion in Lebanon.

The next step for the research is to find out if its applicable outside of Lebanon.

“What we don’t know is whether this similarity in shopping habits is a feature of the Lebanese environment or part of a broader ‘metrosexual’ phenomenon,” Leigh said. “What we want to do now is replicate the research in Europe or the U.S. to see how habits there compare with the Levant.”





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