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Updated 23 Apr 2018

Wait a minute: Are you targeting the wrong customer?

You might think women won’t hesitate to swipe their credit cards or tap-and-go, but these days it’s men that are spending like it’s going out of fashion. 

Pritesh Ruthun, 07 April 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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Since the earliest retailers rolled up the curtains on their shop windows, women have been the chief target audience. Today, still,femalemannequins rule the roost in malls.

It seems as though the demographic is valid – women shop more – or do they?

Selfridges, Harrods’, Woolworths, Edgars. Walk by a department store window anywhere in the world, and the odds are you’ll spot more female-targeted advertising than anything else. But, are the masters of retail getting it wrong? According to Statistics SA, they might be – and so could you.

Related: How targeting the hybrid customer will boost your retail sales


In January 2017, Statistics SA published the findings of its Living Conditions Survey (LCS). “On average, male-headed households spend more on clothing and footwear than female-headed households (R5 343 and R4 364 per annum in 2015, respectively),” the survey said.

Men are spending more than women

According to Statistics South Africa’s report, the fact that males spend more money than females on clothing and footwear shouldn’t take you by surprise. “Male-headed households have a higher average annual income than their female counterparts (R165 853 and R98 911, respectively) and therefore, have greater spending power than female-headed households,” the report says.

When strategising your next move in terms of stock-take, style upgrades and even marketing tactics, take into account that male-headed households spend more across all consumption expenditure categories. You’re genuinely competing for their cash then, and you need to offer unique products and outstanding service if revenue targets are to be exceeded in future. 

Behold the ‘menaissance’

Men -shopping-

“We will continue to see men take the lead in spend(ing). Already, for the first time ever, men are outspending women by 13%. Expect more struggling retailers to bring menswear front and centre,” says Christine Sica, retail analyst and CEO of Mox Group Strategists.

Globally then, retail competition for male spend is going to ramp into overdrive. From cars and bikes to biltong and beer – the retail space is going to be vying for men’s attention. Are you prepared to compete? 

Make it about the experience

As much as you can try and stock the exact items that men want, where are you going to keep it all. Be it a pair of high-tech running shoes, the latest comic book t-shirt, or a must-have after-shave; there are so many retail options out there in terms of where they can spend their money. 

You’re competing both online and in the physical world these days, and retail experts agree that the key ingredient in guaranteeing success is creating a seamless, memorable customer experience. 

A seamless, memorable experience should entail quick response to queries. Interactive staff, both online and store will also help. Basically, you need to think of your male consumers as willing spenders that need a little help in deciding how to spend their money. Dress up the shop, tailoring the vibe more toward a male shopper – if your area of expertise permits – and it might go a long way in securing added revenues in the year to come. 

Related: How to keep customers coming back and repurchasing: Developing a back-end

Also consider the student angle

News24 reports that students are also amongst South Africa’s leading spenders: “The three top things that students spend their money on is alcohol, petrol and bling. Students also splurge on clothes; computer software, takeaways, music and toiletries.” 

Student Village director, Marc Kornberger, says research revealed that students spent around R2 702 monthly. "We found that students from UCT in Cape Town are spending the highest. On average, one student spends R3 925 per month. That is followed by Tuks [University of Pretoria] at R3 371," he explains.

When it comes to attracting more sales and growing your retail business, you need to stay on top of who is spending the most money. Sure, in the past, women might have been the big spenders – but the data’s now suggesting that men are shopping more. If you don’t target them, you’re losing money. (Keep the students in mind too)


Standard Bank’s retail sector experts can assist you in determining shopper trends and retail market characteristics. Regardless of whether you’re selling to males, females or students, you need merchant solutions that save time and increase shopper satisfaction.

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Pritesh Ruthun

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