Are Women Going To Malls To Shop And Socialize While Men Stay Online?

As online shopping grows in popularity, those with an eye on the industry are trying to figure out if brick-and-mortar stores will eventually go away forever. One opinion posited by a writer — women love the social aspect of shopping, and they’ll be the ones to save malls.

An article in the UK’s The Guardian looks into the phenomenon of busy city centers, high streets and malls still being packed with shoppers, despite the lure and increasing influence of Amazon and other online retailers.

Piggybacking on that observation, a response to that article on on Forbes.com by a contributor sets forth the idea that gender stereotypes will explain it all.

He writes:

There are indeed those to whom shopping is a social activity and those to whom it is a chore best done quickly if it is to be done at all.

The thing is, if we look at the stereotypes of our society (and do not dismiss stereotypes, they are based on a reality even if they do not describe reality in total) it’s largely women who enjoy the shopping as the social outlet and largely men who have to be dragged screaming and shouting around the mall.

Basically, in this vein of thought, malls survive because women like to go poke around and gab with gal pals about shoes and chocolate, while ostensibly and stereotypically, men are probably at home watching football and drinking beer.

Sure, this view is exaggerated, he admits, adding that in fact, the fun of being social while shopping does not have to be limited to one sex or the other. Perhaps we’ll always have malls for those who prefer them, while others will head online for their shopping needs. So forget stereotypes after all!

Just kidding, as he concludes: “Or as I say, Amazon for the men and malls and the high street for women.”

Amazon for the Men, Malls and the High Street for Women [Forbes]

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  1. Jules Noctambule says:

    I hate malls. From the parking to the crappy music to the irritating teens, I completely fail that aspect of stereotypical womanhood.

    Now, grocery stores are a different story! I get a real kick out of seeing all the different kinds of produce and dry goods that markets offer, and wherever we travel I’ll take going to a market over retail shopping every time.

    • Ilovegnomes says:

      I’m with you there. I love taking grocery shopping adventures with my friends as a social outing. We find ethnic markets, spice shops, farmers markets, produce stands, etc.

      As far as other shopping, sometimes you just have to try things on or coordinate things in person. Your computer monitor can only go so far in actually relaying color families. I tried designing a room make over for my son (transitioning into a “big boy” room) using online sources. When I got to the store so see everything in person, the colors were so different that I had to scrap my original design and start over from scratch.

      Buying clothes for kids also might work online because you can buy a size or two larger and they’ll grow into it. As an adult, you want something with a better fit because you hope not to expand into a bigger size.

      • Jules Noctambule says:

        I know what brands tend to fit me the best and just stick with those as often as possible. Fortunately, we don’t have kids so I don’t have to worry about the ever-changing sizes that come with a growing child!

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I prefer clothes shopping alone because then no one has to wait for me, but I like going to flea markets and craft fairs with friends.

    • bluline says:

      I hate malls, too. Actually, I pretty much hate all shopping. Like a nuke plant worker addressing a meltdown situation, my goal is to get in, do what needs to be done, and get out as quickly as possible. The less time spent on the premesis the better.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Malls aren’t a problem depending on when you go, the big malls here have security and those under 18 aren’t allowed to be in the mall alone at certain times. If you are able to go to the mall during school hours on a weekday I suggest doing so. There are guards at every entrance enforcing the rules. I have never had a problem with teens at the mall. Parking is not a problem depending on when you go to the mall.

      The only time I can see an issue is if you are at a smaller strip mall with not a lot of stores, teens get bored at these places then they start to cause trouble. When a mall was closing down here there were teens that would basically use the mall as a skate park, the mall had basically no stores except for 2 anchor stores and a bunch of junk stores inbetween so no one actually shopped in the mall they just drove to the 2 anchor stores. But this doesn’t happen you go to a big mall since there is plenty for the teens to do.

  2. CanadianDominic says:

    I did about half my Christmas shopping online, well in advance around October. Everything even comes conveniently in a box, so I can just mangle some wrapping paper and half a mile of scotch tape around it and slap a bow on it and I’m ready to go.

    Added bonus, I avoid terrible mall parking lots, and I can watch hockey and drink beer WHILE I’m shopping.

  3. madanthony says:

    New dating strategy: hang around mall food court and ask women if I can buy them an Orange Julius.

  4. ianmac47 says:

    The death of the modern American mall isn’t coming from the internet, but a shift in how people live– primarily that means away from suburban sprawl towards centralized downtowns, new urbanist communities and large cities. As younger generations mature, populations have been shifting back to urban centers. DUring the real estate downturn, communities with centralized shopping districts, mass transit, and the dense commercial core of traditional neighborhoods have held they value longer and higher than sprawled out developments. The American style mall is on its way out because its customers — particularly the most valuable, high income customers — are socializing, shopping, and dining in their communities rather than driving to a regional mall.

    • madanthony says:

      I think suburban sprawl is alive and well. I think the decline of the mall has more to do with the rise of big box retailers and open “lifestyle center” shopping centers that are built around big box retailers instead of department stores as anchors.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        In my area, their are hybrid malls popping up. They are much smaller, outdoor places with a couple of big departments stores, a bookstore, maybe a few other retailers, several chain restaurants, and often a whole Foods or other store.

    • bluline says:

      There’s a very nice urban mall where I live, right smack in the middle of downtown. The problem is that it’s been taken over by gangs of urban thugs, especially at night. No sane person goes there anymore.

  5. brinks says:

    I like to go to the mall because it gives me a chance to get out of the kitchen.

  6. George4478 says:

    That may be a stereotype, but it’s true in my family. Wifey and the other female members of the family love to go to the mall and browse around for hours. I go to the mall, buy the item I wanted, and leave.

    At Christmas, I will do 99% of my shopping online; Wifey does less than half.

    I find shopping to be a chore. Wifey makes an outing of it, enriching our home’s supply of knickknacks weekly.

  7. yurei avalon says:

    This here woman hates shopping and is in love with Amazon. If Amazon were a person, I would so beg them to marry me D: Plus the collection of rather crappy stores in our local malls doesn’t hurt either.

  8. RayanneGraff says:

    I only go to the mall to buy body jewelry, phone cases, or smellgood stuff from Bath & Body Works. I hate the crowds, the mommies mowing people down with their strollers, and the obnoxious teenagers that whisper when you walk by.

  9. Martha Gail says:

    No, I go to a brick and mortar store so I can see the merchandise in person and, you know, try it on before I buy it.

  10. Kate says:

    Mail order clothes have about a 40 percent chance of looking good on me, and I hate sending back stuff.

    I think guys are easier to fit with not so many curves.

  11. talanisen says:

    I’m a male who loves shopping. I find it hard to replicate the actual experience of seeing/handling an item online. But I also love a good deal… so most of the time while I’m in a store and see something I want, I pull out the smartphone and see if I can get it cheaper online. And the vast majority of the time, I can.

  12. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    Fail. I worship amazon like a pagan deity and dread entering B&M stores for any reason. I am the average woman that this article seems to think will save B&M stores by socially shopping. Nope. Please don’t try to chat with me when I am shopping – I’m busy, um, you know SHOPPING.

    As the stay at home Mom and person in charge of keeping our family’s fridge and closets filled, I rarely step into a store. When I do I usually leave without buying anything. Expecting me to drive to a store (fighting traffic), almost get killed in the parking lot by rampaging drivers, having to decode the merchandising system (designed to make you criss cross back and forth all over the store) only to have to put up with tattooed gang member teens/”employees” snarling at you and swearing in front of your child because you are interrupting their cell phone call or conversations with other employees by wanting to purchase items…Just to find the store is out of what you just wasted 2 hours looking for is too much for me!

    Perfect example? Try going into a B&M store today (1/2/12) and buying warm gloves since it snowed for the first time here last night. There will be a few pairs of ugly gloves (not in your size) on “clearance” but thousands of swimming suits! Order gloves online (pick from thousands of colors and styles) and have them in 2 business days delivered to your door.

    Only “online” carries everything on your list.

    Gifts, books, clothing, housewares, etc. are ordered from amazon. Our food primarily comes from an organic produce co-op and an organic meat co-op (for less than the “regular” stuff in stores). I place our orders online. Misc. (organic) groceries such as pasta, sugar, flour, etc. are purchased by emailing the local “Treasure Island” and having them delivered for a flat $6 plus the cost of the groceries and a tip for the delivery person. I am letting our costco membership expire this year because the “great” prices are not worth the hassle – and the prices are NOT “great”.

    What the heck is a “mall”?

  13. Outrun1986 says:

    Online clothes shopping will never be the same as going to a mall and actually being able to try things on and feel the material. Something that looks great on paper and online in a picture may not fit so great when its tried on in a store and the material may be totally cheap and not worth buying. Though now most online stores allow you to return things to mall stores but you still need the mall stores to be able to do this. So for clothes shopping at least the physical store is the way to go.

    Now for electronics I have to agree that shopping online is probably better as the prices are better. Its not like you can try electronics in a store either, everything is in boxes that are not able to be opened so seeing the product doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference. I have bought plenty of electronics sight unseen and they have been exactly what I wanted.

    Though over here there are plenty of people in the stores, in fact more cars than the parking lots can hold and everyone is carrying bags so that means people are buying so I really doubt malls are going to die completely anytime soon.

  14. Kuri says:

    Eh, I prefer a mall trip to just being online. I like actually dealing with people, having a physical place to return a good I purchased, taking a look as I decide, and I’m a guy. I do make exceptions for harder to find items though.

    That does echo my wishing that Thinkgeek has brick and mortar stores.

  15. Charmander says:

    I’ll never be a 100% online shopper. I want to see, touch and look at real item- housewares, sheets, etc. s that I’m considering buying; in addition, I have to try on clothes before I buy.

  16. Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

    I hate going out shopping. The crowds are annoying and if I am shopping with someone (my mom) it always evolves into a much longer trip then it needs to be. Baby Jesus created the internet so I don’t have to leave my apartment, end of story.

    The only downside I see to this (at least personally) is an increase in impulse buying, missing out on insane, weird deals (five dollars for curtains) and the fact that women’s clothing is not standardized. If I am one size in one store I am most certainly not that same size in another, so shopping online can be difficult in that regard.

  17. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I used to be a mall rat, but grew out of it long ago. Now I only go when there are several stores I want to look through because it’s so damn hard to get back out of there. Once you’re inside, the layout is very disorienting (I know it’s to get you to hit as many stores as you can). It’s tiring too. I get tired tramping around.

    Our mall has some great stuff at the food court, so when I do go I make sure I haven’t eaten first so I can hit Greek in the Box. :)

  18. oldwiz65 says:

    There’s an excellent mall only 5 miles from where I live. I go there almost every day early in the morning. I get good parking and the mall’s not crowded so I can get a bit of exercise without worrying about falling in the snow. There’s decent places to sit and people watch, a food court which is passable, and clean bathrooms. I do shop as well when I need something.

  19. goodfellow_puck says:

    Wow. The guy who wrote that article is a jerk.

    I did all my shopping 100% online. In fact, I do almost ALL of my shopping online. Even clothes and some groceries. I live in a city, so it’s not a travel issue, it’s that it’s cheaper, easier and I HATE the mall. HATE the time and frustration of shopping in a store.

    Now my husband… He makes excuses to go to the bookstore so he can hang out all day and socialize, even if he’s not out to buy anything. So do some of our male friends and family. My sister and female friends ALSO hate shopping in stores. We never do that together.

    But whatever. Stereotypes are totally true. Derp.

  20. gman863 says:

    Socializing, my ass. Malls are kept in business by a large segment of the female population (along with a lesser segment of males) who are financial sluts, spreading open their purse or wallet at every overpriced offering of “fashion”.

    $30+ for a T-shirt? If I’m at the David Lee Roth/Van Halen reunion concert, maybe. American Eagle or Abercrombie & Fitch? Not a chance.

    If I wear the same white oxford dress shirt and slacks once a week, there is no remorse over people having seen me wearing it before or (god forbid) the chance someone else in the building may be wearing an identical outfit.

    Strange how a $50 Casio watch goes with almost everything and keeps time just as well as a Rolex.

    I hated it when my mom wrote my name on the inside of my clothes when I was in the first grade. I hate it even more now when a store tries to overcharge me because somebody else’s name is written on the outside of theirs. If a designer label on clothing is how you judge people, go fuck yourself.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I’ll bite. It depends on the t-shirt. $30 for any old generic t-shirt with a brand name is not my cup of tea, but Threadless gets my money even if their shirts are closer to $30.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      If working adults are bent on identifying people based on the label on their clothing then that is just really, really immature behavior. Most of these stores aren’t targeting adults, they are targeting the tweens and teens with parents in tow that have money to spend. Or the college student who has enough disposable income (and possibly gets money given to them by their parents) to blow $30 on a t-shirt just to have it with a certain brand on it.Notice how there are very few stores in the mall that sell workwear appropriate clothing but how many stores are touting the latest pair of jeans or shoes. It would be different for men if you just need a white button up shirt, as most stores have those but for women the choices are much harder to make than just a shirt, tie and pants.

  21. yabdor says:

    Just another data point. XY here…. did ALL my shopping online.

  22. balderdashed says:

    The Mall is becoming increasingly irrelevant — except to teens who need a place to hang out, senior citizens who need a place to walk/exercise indoors during bad weather, bored stay-at-home Moms who are desperate to get out of the house, and poor people who have nowhere else to go. I live near Southdale, which opened in 1956 in Edina, MN as the first enclosed Mall in the U.S. It’s vacancy rate is now nearly 13 percent. Most malls aren’t doing much better — vacancy rates for shopping malls nationally are 9.3 percent, the highest in 11 years. And the idea that enclosed suburban malls offer a safer shopping experience than downtown is belied by recent events at the Mall of America (you’ve probably seen the You-Tube videos of December’s three-hour riot). The thugs and punks also like the malls, which is one more reason people with money to spend are spending it elsewhere, and spending more of it online.

  23. Misha says:

    I hate the social aspect of shopping, full stop.

  24. Not Given says:

    I hate shopping. I hate even more shopping with someone else. They slow me down, keep me from buying everthing I need because they and their stuff takes up room in the car, (which just means I have to go shopping again sooner) never want to stop at all the places I want to go and do want to spend a lot of time at stores I have no use for. It takes twice as long and I get half what I need.
    I will never buy clothes or shoes without trying them on, though. I rarely go to the mall unless there is a movie I want to see or I need something I know I can get there and I’ve looked at all the other places I go. I hate how far I have to walk at malls. I’m not crazy about how far I have to walk at Walmart, but at least I can start at one side and work my way to the other side, getting what I need for the next month along the way.

  25. bukkler says:

    I can only speak of my own experience, but for men, socializing is a goal in itself, and you do things specifically to socialize, like going to a bar or sporting event, or inviting other guys over for a LAN party. We don’t chat in bathrooms or at the store. In fact, men see stores as just that: stores of objects that may be needed. You make a list of what’s required, go to the store, get the required items, then leave. No discussion or socializing is required unless you need help. I think it’s the difference between ancient male “hunter” mindsets vs. female “gatherer” mindsets.