business news in context, analysis with attitude

Reuters reports that a new study from Forrester Research reveals that despite the fact that Home Depot and Lowe's Cos. seem to appeal to different gender groups -- Home Depot to a primarily male consumer, and Lowe's to women -- in fact, 45 percent of each company's customers are female.

Christopher Kelley, a Forrester analyst, told Reuters, that the companies' appeal seems to be to home improvement enthusiasts, not specific gender groups. The study was not commissioned by either of the two retailers.

This conclusion flies in the face of what has become conventional wisdom, which is that Lowe's brighter lighting and wider aisles hold greater appeal to women, who studies show are more and more interested in home improvement projects. While Home Depot management has said that it may have underestimated the importance of the female consumer in the past, its goal is to target both men and women, not one group at the expense of the other.
KC's View:
: We have no dog in this hunt; we can't stand the Home Depot near us, we're no more thrilled with the Lowe's stores we've been in, and we would not in any way, shape or form be considered a home improvement person. (Our idea of home improvement is buying better beer or wine. Or sending the kids away for a long weekend.)

That said, we believe that there is room in the home improvement big-box genre for departments that can appeal to people like us…men and women who just need the basics, and especially can use help and advice like you used to be able to get at the local hardware store.

That's the real tragedy of the hardware store business, and one that more retailers in other venues should learn from. Hardware stores closed by the dozen in the face of big box competition, and have not really been replaced by anything except enormous stores with allegedly low prices. It leaves an enormous chasm between what many of these stores offer and what people like us need. It is a chasm that someone or something could try to fill with the possibility of great success.

There is a parallel to what seems to be happening in the food business, and supermarkets ought to learn from it, creating a new model of store that transcends the simple issue of price.

This isn't about gender marketing, though that's a part of it. It really is about educational/instructional marketing -- about demystifying a subject for people so they, in fact, become more proficient (and profitable) consumers.