Patricia Huddleston's new book looks at reasons women shop and provides a history of how shopping has evolved. Photo by G.L. Kohuth.

There’s more to shopping than just buying stuff

MSU News, Jun 2 2011

For women, shopping is more than just buying stuff. For some it can be therapeutic, for others a time to socialize, or for some a challenge to find the right product at the right price.

Michigan State University’s Patricia Huddleston is co-author of a new book, “Consumer Behavior: Women and Shopping,” which looks at the reasons why women go shopping, as well as provides a history of how shopping has evolved over the years.

“Most of the women we talked to said it wasn’t necessarily about buying things,” said Huddleston, a professor of retailing. “It was what they liked about it, what it meant to them, and fond memories they had.”

One of the more common reasons why women shop is for the social aspect. She, Huddleston said, is the “yo girlfriend” shopper.

“This is a woman who likes to shop with other women,” she said. “Perhaps women will go away for a weekend in which shopping is the main activity.”

Shopping also can be used for therapy – to help make up for a bad day – or just for fun.

“There are women I call the lone browsers,” Huddleston said. “They walk around, they look, but don’t necessarily buy anything.”

Other types of shoppers can include hunters – those who make a quest out of finding the best price – and the more practical types – women who know what they want to buy, go to the store and just buy it regardless of the price.

The book, co-authored by Stella Minahan of Australia’s Deakin University, also looks at how shopping, like shoppers, has changed with the times.

For example, retailers are starting to take advantage of the concept of socializing and shopping.

“If you’re a mall manager,” said Huddleston, “you may want to help promote local hotels where women can stay the weekend, or make sure the mall has spaces where women can have lunch together.

The fact is, she said, retailers have always been quick to adapt. Post-World War II is a perfect example.

“After the war there was this huge exodus to the suburbs,” Huddleston said. “And that is when we saw the advent of the shopping mall. It followed the women out there.”

Another sign of evolving retailers: More women are now shopping at stores that are traditionally male dominions such as hardware and home-improvement stores.

Consumer Behavior: Women and Shopping was published by Business Expert Press. For more information, visit www.businessexpertpress.com/books/consumer-behavior-women-and-shopping.