Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who Makes the Call at the Mall, Men or Women?

by Carl Bialik

Wall Street Journal

April 23, 2011

A longstanding marketing adage makes clear who holds most American households' purse strings: Women control 80% or more of spending.

For at least two decades, this number has been a fixture of news articles, marketing websites and books about consumer behavior. And as with many oft-repeated statistics, no one is sure where it originated.

"It's very hard to get to the bottom of the numbers," says Maddy Dychtwald, co-author of Influence: How Women's Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better, published last year with the claim that "women are responsible for 83 percent of consumer purchases in the United States." Ms. Dychtwald adds, "This is muddy terrain."

In addition to having murky origins, the number appear to be wrong. Several recent surveys suggest that men have nearly equal say on spending, and that when men and women live together, both participate in spending decisions. In a survey conducted last year of nearly 4,000 Americans 16 and older by Futures Co., a London consulting firm, just 37% of women said they have primary responsibility for shopping decisions in their household, while 85% said they have primary or shared responsibility. The respective figures for men were similar: 31% and 84%.


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