Monday, August 25, 2008

What Do Guys Want When They Shop?

I used to work with a smart, funny, non-athletic, straight guy – let’s call him Bob. When he was in his late 20s, Bob used to go for a weekly steam and rubdown (never called it a massage). I pictured the place being similar to where Jerry’s father and uncle Leo hung out on Seinfeld. There, Bob found camaraderie among the sweaty men of all ages who had weekly appointments on the same day he did. I imagined they talked about their jobs, their significant others, kids if they had them, the local sports teams.

That was a long time ago, and Bob has since moved away, gotten married and had kids. He was the only guy I knew who did anything like this.

When I heard that Mickey Drexler opened a J Crew Mens’ Shop in the old Liquor Store building in Tribeca this week, I thought of Bob. I wondered where guys like Bob go today for that feeling of male camaraderie.

In 2005, we did qualitative research for a leading shoe brand to understand men's ideal shoe shopping experience. Their answer: Hooters with shoes. Men told us they wanted a bar-like setting with young, attractive cocktail waitresses in short outfits, and plasma screen TVs on the walls showing sports. We laughed, and everyone found that aspect of our findings amusing.

Apparently, the findings held up, and others found them, too. In 2007, Knockouts Haircuts for Men launched. Knockouts is a full-service, boxing-themed salon known for its specially-chosen staff of attractive female hairstylists wearing trade-marked Knockouts Girls boxing uniforms. Knockouts offers a pampering experience for men including large leather chairs, individual flat screen TV’s with remote controls at each station and complimentary beer. Pretty close match to what the men told us in our shoe research.

Is that it? Is Hooters plus product the only retail experience that will engage men? Even J. Crew’s Tribeca Men’s Shop seems to be a variation on this theme. In an effort to be authentic, the display cases cleverly repurpose the liquor store’s original fixtures, and the store kept as much of the bar vibe as possible. Customers can even pour a drink while browsing.

Hooter’s – or in this case, the White Horse Tavern in New York City's West Village, which was the inspiration for the Tribeca Men's Shop store design - plus product may still be what guys want when they shop.

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