Sex and shopping

Brit was on the road the other day and, having arrived home safely, emailed to tell me – amongst other more admin-related things – how the WH Smiths at the motorway services was infested with single men. They were loitering around the magazine racks. Furtive, heads down, not making eye contact.

I was able to reassure him that nothing untoward was going on. The explanation is, however, to be found in the realm of sex.

Men tend to have a goal-directed and functional approach to shopping: in and out as quickly as possible and with a minimum of fuss. Women have a more recreational approach: the experience is enjoyable in itself.

There are, however, five areas where men shop like women: tools, technology, booze, cars and, more surprisingly, magazines. In the last, women shop exactly like men do in other areas: they know exactly which is ‘their’ title and just go and buy it. Men, however, tend to graze the glossy pastures: they browse, pick up, leaf through. Then do it again, cud-chewing as they go.

This is reflected in the layout of the magazine sections in places like WH Smith. The part containing golf, motoring, wine, computer and sailing titles is extensive and relatively spaciously laid out; the part with the women’s magazines is compact, streamlined and near the tills.

Someone with experience in magazine retailing once told me that his business referred to the men’s magazine section as ‘the library’. He said this was the more genteel term: in less couth parts of the trade it’s known as ‘the urinals’.

Anyway, it struck me that I shop almost exactly like the typical woman. I nip in and get my weekly with nary a browse. The only men’s category I might conceivably enjoy taking my time over is that of booze. No interest in the others at all. So I buy as quickly and as straightforwardly as possible and only when I have to.

On the other hand I love shopping at the butcher’s, fishmonger’s and greengrocer’s. And I’m not averse to a bit of clothes shopping. I draw the line at make-up, however. I borrow my wife’s.

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11 thoughts on “Sex and shopping

  1. owls001@gmail.com'
    October 1, 2010 at 18:03

    I am in the process of renewing my Pilots licence at the moment and was at the flight simulator yesterday to do some schooling.

    Like all male dominated environments, the reception and waiting rooms were full of Plasmas, PC terminals, workstations, coffee and tea machines, and loads of Mags, lots of aviation stuff, lots of Auto Mags, T3, Stuff ect ect, I counted 350 aprox magazines in the bookshelves and on the large central coffee table, but one caught my eye and horrified me a 18 month of copy of Womans Own.

  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    October 1, 2010 at 18:26

    Puzzling, the gender related shopping thing and magazines a modern phenomenon, for starters the sheer variation, thousands of ’em. Schiphol has more magazines than Murdoch has politicians in his pocket. As does our local medical centre although most are green welly related, George Streets Optical Express has a comprehensive selection but, when I go it’s test time and the contacts are left at home, reading the sods is problematical.
    Susan may be able to enlighten us here, why are the shopping habits of our dearly beloved such an intense occasion and why do so many of the good ladies get more pleasure from taking the stuff back than they do buying it in the first place.
    The only magazine that I actually buy is Standpoint although being a gentile I do sometimes feel odd man outish.

  3. Brit
    October 1, 2010 at 19:09

    The Mag Urinal is a real oddity that we overlook, isn’t it?

    I was on the road again today, stopped at Strensham Northbound and picked up a Private Eye and a Spectator to check out the competition. Yes, The Dabbler is definitely better than either…

  4. Gaw
    October 1, 2010 at 19:38

    Sean: Woman’s Own still exists?

    Malty: I think the only requirement for being a Standpoint reader is owning your own tin hat.

    Brit: Mag Urinal is a very unhappy collection of phonemes.

    I wonder about the literary habits of our own readers. Never mind those two sad and wayward publications – is it Classic Tractor or Woman’s Own?

  5. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    October 1, 2010 at 20:03

    Gaw, neither, most probably Guns ‘n Ammo or Watchtower.

  6. alasguinns@me.com'
    Hey Skipper
    October 2, 2010 at 01:02

    There are, however, five areas where men shop like women: tools …

    No, that’s wrong. I am looking for some tool I have ever needed or might ever need.

    Completely different.

  7. fchantree@yahoo.co.uk'
    Gadjo Dilo
    October 2, 2010 at 07:56

    The mention of the mens magazines sections in motorway service stations instantly brought back a piquant memory for me. My father, when not being a lab technicial, was a hack jounalist who had most success writing articles for (ahem) Mayfair magazine. Not the porn, but mainly pieces of puff about fishing and Nazi weaponry, as I recall. He occasionally felt the need to do research, and, not being the type of chap to openly embrace the one-handed-reading lifestyle, he used to do this when we went on family outings in the car, away from anybody might recognise him. When we’d stopped at a service station shop he’d walk boldly down to the porn section and look through ALL the jazz mags to see what the current trends were. He’d then report back to us. I rather respected him for it.

    (Gaw, you have ‘admin-related things’ with Mr. Brit – you actually, like, know each other?)

  8. info@shopcurious.com'
    October 2, 2010 at 08:33

    I’ve seen men loitering in record shops too… funny we still call them record shops, when all they seem to sell is CDs/DVDs

  9. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    malty
    October 2, 2010 at 08:37

    I would surmise, Gadjo that they first met whilst in Borders, stood next to each other, both reading Computer Shopper, discovered they had a mutual interest and, the rest is history.

  10. s.fawcus@btinternet.com'
    Stephen
    October 2, 2010 at 17:17

    A conclusion I have reached is that the men standing at the WH Smiths library are often waiting for their significant others to finish looking around Top Shop, Superdrug or Marks and Spencers. If you observe these men for a while, as I often do, you’ll notice they rarely actually buy anything.
    On a related note, has anyone ever seen a double digit issue number of a De’Agostino title such as “build your own Panzer Tank” in a newsagents? They seem to disappear after the first few issues.

  11. wormstir@gmail.com'
    October 4, 2010 at 21:15

    I read all the magazines a bit first to check if any of them actually have any writing in them, or if they’re just 300 pages of adverts for watches and naked men looking at the camera telling me to buy aftershave

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