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Women and Tech Shopping: Shocker!

Frank Ahrens

Can this be true?

Big-box retailer Best Buy -- which makes a lot of its scratch selling electronics -- has discovered that women spend more than men on electronics.

Citing research from the Consumer Electronics Association, Best Buy says women outspend men by about a 60/40 ratio when it comes to electronic gadgets. Further, women influence 90 percent of all electronics purchases.

To this end, Best Buy is going to augment its shopping experience to include more touches traditionally found in stores frequented by women, such as personal shopping assistants. (Here's my guess: Their main job will be to personally assist you in buying the extended warranty.)

The latter figure I can understand. But the former? Seems to me, I'd see a lot more 42-inch plasma TVs in the homes of my married buddies if this were true.

But maybe they're there and I just don't see them. Electronics are a great gender-marker. For instance, I have noticed that men like to proudly display their electronics in the home -- installing them on big media centers, creating totems for worship. The more cables, the better!

Women, on the other hand, seem to like to hide electronics, for some reason. TVs inside cabinets, that sort of thing.
(Why IS that?)

I admit this item totally flummoxes me.

I require help, especially from our female readers. Please inundate me with comments explaining technology and gender and the complicated relationship therein.

Today In The Post:

* Mike Musgrove writes about Microsoft's plan to give Universal Music a cut of every new Zune mp3 player sold. Microsoft is rolling out its iPod-killer in a few days and, to get access to Universal's music library -- so Zune buyers could actually have something to download -- they agreed to throw a little vig to Universal.


* NBC Universal, working hard to show that it is the most digital of television networks, has launched an online comedy channel called DotComedy . The channel features new material written specifically for DotComedy and draws on NBC's comedy vault, from episodes of "The Munsters" to "Leave It To Beaver" to David Letterman's NBC years.

By Frank Ahrens  |  November 10, 2006; 11:26 AM ET  | Category:  Frank Ahrens
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I think it has something to do with the typical social constructs for men and women -- men tend to get together to perform an activity (i.e., watching TV, fishing, pick-up game of basketball, etc.), whereas women tend to get together to talk (and therefore don't need the TV/boombox/etc displayed prominently, as they are their own entertainment -- if they want it, they'll get it out, but they'll not have the distraction).

Posted by: Female Best Buy Shopper | November 10, 2006 2:30 PM

I think a key phrase here is "totem for worship". Some men may see electronics that way but women generally don't. Women enjoy electronics for their functionality, for the way they can make life easier.

It's easier to have an MP3 player wrapped around your arm while jogging than it was to have a CD player hanging at your waist. It's less clutter to have a VCR/DVD combo unit than to have two seperate units. The old computer monitors needed a huge depth to have a larger screen; the flat panels provide a bigger screen without taking up such a big footprint.

It's about functionality and ease of use, not finding another way to play "mine is bigger than yours".

Posted by: Computer Literate 49 Year Old Woman | November 10, 2006 2:46 PM

I do find that my male friends have a better idea of what tech items cost. If I pay to much for something I am embaressed to admit it to my male friends when the ask "how much". I think in general it is a more male tendency to scour the ads of the sunday paper to find the the best deals, thus they may end up paying less. Grocery shopping is a whole diffrent story.

Posted by: TechGuy | November 10, 2006 3:10 PM

I think women sometimes make their guys wait to buy stuff until it is more practical--intuitive. It's important that it works in a way that makes sense, fits into our lives, not that it's the newest thing (which may be flawed). Even a lot of the big screens we can see in homes were probably limited by the woman's idea of what was acceptable. Another thot on this--think how moms can have influence on when, where and if kids can get tech toys or games, etc. Moms have to live with these things more on a daily basis, so probably influence those decisions.

Posted by: CA Mom | November 10, 2006 3:25 PM

Women (at least this woman) like big fancy expensive electronics just as much as the next guy. The problem with most of them is that they're an eyesore, especially when you're not using them. When you invest alot of money in making your living space look nice/coordinated and buy nice furniture and decorations, the last thing you want is a big black box dominating the room. This is why women want to hide electronics. A beautiful flat paneled, wall mounted Plasma screen TV in a tasteful wooden frame I'm sure would have few opponents with the female sex (especially if the screen was able to function as a mirror or 'painting' when the TV was off). I think as applience makers put more and more energy into designing products that look as good as they perform, you'll see more enthusiastic tech spending among women.

Posted by: Tracy | November 10, 2006 3:49 PM

Yeah, isn't this a big old "duh"? Electronics are usually ugly and can rarely be coordinated with the look of the room, so why not find attractive ways to disguise them? My husband completely agrees with me, by the way. He custom builds cabinets and shelving to tuck our AV equipment away. I'm a little appalled anyone who doesn't comparison shop for pricing though. That should be an everyone-behavior, not a male or female behavior.

Posted by: JH | November 10, 2006 4:27 PM

It's simple - women tend to like people and men tend to like things. I'm a woman and I don't have TV in my living room because I think it destroys it as a social space. One night at girls night we all played video games and it totally ruined the purpose of girls night, which is to hang out and chat and laugh. We all agreed: no more video games at girls night. The boys? They are perfectly happy to have something to do that doesn't involve real communication. I know I'm not exactly being PC, but you know its true!

Posted by: KR | November 10, 2006 6:04 PM

I agree with the previous comments about the ugliness of electronics. I like the warmth that good upholstery, carpets and window treatments bring to a room. Electronics make it look like an airport.

Also, I do enjoy electronics, but I don't have time to use them nearly as much as I'd like. I seldom have time to sit in front of the TV.

Posted by: KM | November 10, 2006 6:20 PM

I personally never shop at Best Buy because they ignore me, a 50 year old woman. I know more about computers than most of their staff, but unless I bring in my lovely 20-something daughters, or my husband who makes me do all the computer work, they don't even talk to me. I am willing to spend big bucks on computers and technology but I won't do it there.

Posted by: tech teacher | November 10, 2006 7:23 PM

I completely agree with KM and others about looks. At night in my basement it looks like the bridge of the Enterprise when I turn off the lights! Also, I prefer books to t.v. (I have a beautiful pedestal for our 50 pound dictionary), but we have 4. One in the family room, a ridiculous 55 inch plasma in the mancave (yes, I am a woman, and yes, my husband is very happy), one in the guest room and one somewhere else. Not in the bedroom. My t.v. snob husband won't watch on anything but the plasma (note to wives: just let him get it. He'll be so happy, then whenever you go shopping and he complains, just point to the plasma. My wardrobe has never been so nice!). There are no discernable cords. We have more than our fair share of electronica, but my husband is a computer nerd. I am personally in charge of 98% of our disposable income. I hate Best Buy, Circuit City and the rest. They do not smell good, the bathrooms aren't great, no chairs, etc. When I bought my living room furniture, which was 40% less than the plasma, the guy was so nice! He brought me a bottle of water, there was a place to sit, and he gave us all hot, fresh cookies! What did I get at Best Buy when I went in to get a printer? Nothing! I also do not like high ceilings. I prefer boutiques. So, for the most part, I buy most of my stuff online. I bought my mac, my ipod, accessories for ipod and a television online. When I do buy stuff like that at stores I usually go to EB games. We bought 2 nintendo dses (one lite) and multiple games from there. In fact, we went in there today. It was mostly moms. We do comparison shop on the web. I also bought some electronic stuff from Target and Radio Shack (those guys are very nice) If anything gets purchased from a Best Buy or Circuit City, he buys it. I won't even go in! He did buy his PSP from Wal-mart, though. He was on travel and was bored. Hope this helps. I am distracted--I bought the new Guitar Hero 2 today for my kids and the plinking gets on my nerves.

One funny thing--I prefer not to have electronics out when they are not being used, but it is hard with alarm clocks. I found a lovely one that runs on a battery but looks like an old-fashioned clock with a face. The numbers even glow in the dark!

LAST THING--Akihabara is the cool place in Tokyo to get new electronic gadgets (at least if I remember correctly--maybe that was my train stop) and there were always plenty of women. Many of us like little things that shine! Guys like big things.

Posted by: jane | November 10, 2006 8:48 PM

I am a woman and I do all of the electronics shopping in my home. My husband, sad to say, doesn't have the least bit of interest in electronics. I do wish the stores were a bit more female friendly (at least have a place to sit and rest when you have a butt load of kids with you). Anyway, much like car dealerships, I don't expect this to change and instead shop online to minimize my time in the store.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | November 10, 2006 9:41 PM

women hide electronics because we buy stuff for function rather than to demonstrate status.

and i think women outspend men, in part, because:

(a) we're buying game consoles and gadgets for the kids
(b) we'll pay a premium for ease (whether ease of use, or ease of shopping experience) or appearance (does it take up less space? does it work better with our style of furniture?).

Posted by: tiffany | November 11, 2006 1:10 PM

In terms of spending, I would guess it's simply a reflection that women do more shopping then men. I'd guess that the 60/40 split in electronics is probably one of the lowest women to men ratio's other than buying cars.

Still, women are pobably buying the majority of those electronics for men. My bet is a lot of married men get involved on some major purchases (stereo, hdtv, xbox) but may 1) do a lot of research at home and have the wife pick it up and 2) women probably simply deal a lot with the day-to-day electronics purchases.

Of course, as a single guy... I'm still waiting for grocery stores to realize that people other than women buy food. I'm always amazed they'll have 10 magazines at the checkout counter and there's never one I can see any men being remotely interested in.

Posted by: AE | November 13, 2006 11:06 AM

AE--consider yourself lucky. All those mags just tell us that we are fat, looking old, can't manage our money, don't know how to dress, can't cook, and don't know how to please our men in bed. But while men do eat, why is it I always see women at the grocery store?

Posted by: jane | November 13, 2006 6:52 PM

I have a google alert on 'Women Buying Consumer Electronics' and was so HAPPY to find this article come up and so many women responding. I have a successful career as a recording engineer/producer and studio owner. Most recently, I am developing audio products for women.

Having carved a place for myself as a woman in a male dominated field, I am well aware of the challenges we face making purchases.

Currently, I have 5 top speaker companies giving me products to beta test. I have suggested to all they consider marketing towards women. Eventhough,women are now the majority purchasers for music, it's not that easy to change thinking in the marketing departments, often run by men.

Women tend not to care about owning the 'biggest' tv or listening to endless specs being rattled off. We care about our purchases not breaking, being simple to use, and light enough to move. We want our products to work.

Women buy functionality and quality. We have the money to buy.


Posted by: Cookie Marenco | November 16, 2006 11:00 AM

I have to take a bit of an exception to the comments averring that women buy things for functionality while men buy things for status. While I would agree that this is often the case where electronics are concerned, the situation is reversed in the area of clothing and jewelry, where women often make purchases for status and men typically buy for functionality. Neither sex is better than the other. We just place emphasis on different things.

Posted by: Kevin | November 16, 2006 3:36 PM

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