Retailing 109: What Do Women Want?

From RSI Magazine
While recent statistics show that men are beginning to do more retail shopping than in the past, women still buy the majority of goods at retail. As a tennis specialty retailer, are you addressing the needs of women when it comes to shopping? Do you and your staff know the different shopping habits between men and women? Do you know how to attract more women as customers to your retail store?

To start to understand this, we first need to realize that retail shopping follows social change. According to Paco Underhill, the author of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping” and a pre-eminent retail anthropologist: “Retail must pay attention to how women wish to live, what they want and need, or it will be left behind.”

Understand, too, that there are fundamental differences in how men shop vs. how women shop. “Males just want a place that allows them to find what they need with a minimum of looking and than get out fast,” says Underhill. “If made to wander and seek—in other words, to shop—he’s likely to give up in frustration and exit. Men take less pleasure in the journey.”

Women, on the other hand, demand more from the shopping experience—or journey—and hence from the retail environment itself. Women need to feel comfortable in retail environments and be able to move about comfortably.

So the challenge for specialty tennis retailers begins with making their retail environments appealing to female shoppers.

A Complete Experience

Increasing sales to women is all about the complete retail shopping environment and the total shopping experience! No matter what size your store is, think about a redesign built around a friendly, fun tennis lifestyle shopping experience that will make women and all shoppers who visit comfortable.

You should evaluate your customer service and develop a store culture based on education. Create an operations manual that focuses totally on the consumer, and on the shoppers who visit your store. Start by getting together a group of women who you know play tennis, and ask them to “mystery” shop your store and evaluate their shopping experience for you. If you are a one-man operation, ask them to shop your store just like they would any other specialty tennis store, and provide the same evaluation.

After you have had women mystery-shop or otherwise evaluate your store and the shopping experience it delivers, walk through your store yourself and do your own evaluation. Here is a checklist to consider:

* Clean and Neat: Keep your parking lot and the outside of your store clean. The same goes for the interior—do “recovery” every day, which means vacuum, sweep, dust, fold and fix the displays and signs.

* Windows: They are the eyes through which consumers first see your store. Make sure they are clean, inside and out, and merchandised if appropriate to your traffic. If there are any stickers on you windows or doors, take them off.

* Entryway: Easy access to your store is important. (And keep in mind many women shop pushing a stroller.)

* Intercept and Greeting: Here is where differentiating between men and women shoppers becomes a retail skill:
--   Women will seek out you and your staff to ask questions and ask for help; men, for the most part, will avoid contact. If left on their own, men will seek the product they are interested in, gather as much information as they can and leave as quickly as they can.
--    Once you intercept and greet male shoppers, you may need to give some of them space, but be available to answer questions. Research shows that men will visit as many as three stores before purchasing. You need to manage the intercept and greeting skillfully so they’ll purchase from you.

* Shopping Bags: Provide carts, baskets or nylon shopping bags—whatever is appropriate for your retail space. These will invite customers to actually shop.

* Make Your Store Sticky! Research shows that the amount of time a shopper spends in a store is perhaps the single most important factor in determining how much he or she will buy. Making shoppers comfortable is all about keeping them in your store for as long as possible.

* Seating Shows You Care: According to Underhill, “In the majority of stores, sales would instantly be increased by the addition of one chair."

* Kids Go Everywhere: Including your store! Make sure your store is kid-friendly; include a play area if necessary.

* Clean Restroom and Changing Rooms: These are essential if you want to attract and hold onto more women as customers.

* Flowers and Plants Are Good: Add flowers and green growing things throughout your store.

* Open It Up: If your aisles are so tight that two people can’t pass without touching, you’ll lose shoppers. And again, remember that many women shop with children, so your aisles need to accommodate strollers.

Addressing the needs of all shoppers, and in particular the needs of women, will help bring in more customers, and create more loyalty among your current clients.

This is part of a series of retail tips presented by the Tennis Industry Association and written by the Gluskin Townley Group (