Women As Likely As Men To Last-Minute Christmas Shop, Survey Shows

Published: December 18 1998

Category:Business, Family, Gender, Research

GAINESVILLE — It’s 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and the local mall is jammed with men charging through their last-minute shopping while their wives or girlfriends sit at home gloating because they were finished weeks ago.

That’s the way it always is, right?


A new University of Florida survey finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, women are just as likely as men to be standing in the check-out line Dec. 24.

Researchers telephoned 1,003 adults in October and questioned them about their holiday shopping habits. Asked when they planned to shop compared with last year, 5.9 percent of women replied “a little later” or “much later” versus 6.1 percent of men.

“On Dec. 24, you’re just as likely to see a woman as a man traipsing through the disheveled aisles of a department store,” said Erik Gordon, director of the Center for Retailing Education and Research at UF, which conducted the survey.

But women’s reasons for being there differ greatly from guys’.

“Men are going to be just starting shopping. They’re in a panic. What size does she wear? Does she like blue?’” Gordon said. “A woman is there shopping for the 56th time still trying to find the solar-powered remote control her husband mentioned in his sleep six months ago.”

In a series of follow-up calls, Gordon said, researchers asked some of the respondents more detailed questions about their responses. They found out that, by and large, women still are more likely than men to start their gift-buying early.

“Women will start shopping in August and have the gifts wrapped by October,” Gordon said, “whereas men won’t even think about shopping until after the college football season is over.”

The survey backs that up. Again in response to the question about when they planned to do their holiday shopping, 5.5 percent of men said “much earlier” than last year, compared with 14.3 percent of women — a 3-to-1 margin.

But the follow-up calls also revealed that a woman is more likely to persist in finding the gift she wants, even if it means rushing around soon-to-close stores with just hours before Santa starts his rounds, Gordon said. A man often has no idea what he’s looking for at the last minute — and may well suffer the consequences when his wife or girlfriend finds a new iron under the tree instead of the lingerie she dropped all those hints about.

Jerry Biller, manager of the Target department store on Sand Lake Road in Orlando, said he’s seen evidence of what the survey shows, though it tends to vary somewhat by store location.

At downtown locations, he said, the last-minute shoppers usually are businessmen; at stores near residential areas, women make up the bulk of the late customers.

“Actually, a lot of the guys come in the weekend before Christmas. They’re later — rather than last-minute — shoppers,” he said. “But at 6 p.m. [Christmas Eve] when we lock our doors, everyone who comes in is in a panic.”

Societal changes also show up in how women shop. Women, Gordon said, start their shopping sooner now than they did a generation ago. That’s partly because retailers start their holiday advertising and promotions earlier now, he said, but it’s also women’s way of coping with ever-more-hectic schedules.

“Women dealt with the time crunch by getting more organized,” he said. “Men — we’re never going to change. When we’re living on Mars under glass domes some day, men will still be getting on the Earth shuttle Dec. 24 to go Christmas shopping.”


Steve Orlando
Erik Gordon

Category:Business, Family, Gender, Research

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