Whatever men want from the shopping experience, they don't appear to be getting much of it. Sarah Dowding says the wise retailer or manufacturer is the one with an eye on the male of the species Shopping means different things to different people at different times. Shopping can be a reward, therapy, leisure, bribery, entertainment, time killer and more. But how do we shop? Simple things such as our physical abilities and limitations contribute a fair amount to the way we shop, but we all respond differently to the same environment. Merchandising and signage play only one part of the shopping experience. Retailers who can identify and then appeal to shoppers' differences have a far greater chance of success. One of the most obvious differences is gender. When it comes to shopping, Paco Underhill from Envirosell says: "Women are better at it, men are loose cannons. But as men and women (and the relations between them) change, so do their shopping behaviours, which has huge implications for business." Conventional wisdom says men don't like to shop, which is why they don't shop often. As most women know, men don't make patient company while shopping. As a result the entire shopping experience is generally geared towards women ­ pack design, adverts and store layout. Have you noticed how many clothing stores have the men's department first, to make it that bit easier for them? Underhill goes on to say: "Women do have a greater affinity for shopping ­ walking at a relaxed pace through stores, examining merchandise, comparing products and values, interacting with sales staff, asking questions...and ultimately making purchases." Men tend to move faster through stores and spend less time looking ­ and they rarely look at anything they hadn't intended to buy. Eighty six per cent of women look at prices compared with only 72% of men and, as a result, men are more easily upgraded in their purchases than women. Men shop more now than ever before because they stay single longer and gender roles are changing. They have had to learn to shop for things their fathers never had to buy. It is no coincidence that categories that were previously the preserve of women have become more masculine. One of the best examples of this is kitchen appliances. Fridges and cookers are now advertised in men's magazines, come in stainless steel or an industrial style, and are hankered after by men. This is more because of a change in demographics than marketing. A general rule is to take any category where women predominate, and make it more appealing to men, such as the skin care market. Post war women have become powerful consumers. So much so that they can change the face of retail. The best example of this is in the DIY industry. Time has seen the demise of the hardware store ­ a typically masculine environment ­ and the boom of the DIY lifestyle store, which is friendly to either sex. With more women working, shopping must be fitted in around the rest of their lives. The main beneficiaries of this change are convenience stores. Internet and mail order shopping have also expanded for the same reason. But having less time and inclination to spend it in stores offsets the advantage of women now having more money. When shopping, many women become absorbed in the process of seeking, comparing and weighing up the pros and cons of a purchase. In the supermarket a woman will carefully select the most perfect lettuce on offer, look at the price, and compare pre-wrapped with loose products. Generally a man will breeze in, pick up the first lettuce he sees and neither notice the price nor the fact that the lettuce he has selected has brown wilting leaves. This difference basically means that women demand more from the shopping environment than men. Men want to find what they are looking for easily and get out fast, whereas women are more patient and inquisitive. Therefore women need shopping environments where they can spend time comfortably. The challenge for retailers has been to make products and stores that are traditionally for one sex "safe" and appealing to the other. Underhill suggests that manufacturers, retailers and display designers who pay attention to male habits, and are willing to adapt the shopping experience to them, will have an edge in the 21st century. {{LEADING EDGE }}