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Food retailers have long worked under the premise that woman do most of the food shopping, even in two-income families where their husbands might be expected to spend an equal amount of time in the supermarket aisles.

But now, there is at least a possibility of a change in this presumption.

The New York Times this morning reports that “women are poised to surpass men on the nation’s payrolls, taking the majority for the first time in American history. The reason has less to do with gender equality than with where the ax is falling.

“The proportion of women who are working has changed very little since the recession started. But a full 82 percent of the job losses have befallen men, who are heavily represented in distressed industries like manufacturing and construction. Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs, and in jobs that allow more time for child care and other domestic work.”

And, the Times goes on: “Economists have predicted before that women would one day dominate the labor force as more ventured outside the home. The number of women entering the work force slowed and even dipped during the boom years earlier this decade, though, prompting a debate about whether women truly wanted to be both breadwinners and caregivers.

“Should the male-dominated layoffs of the current recession continue — and Friday’s jobs report for January may offer more insight — the debate will be moot. A deep and prolonged recession, therefore, may change not only household budgets and habits; it may also challenge longstanding gender roles.”

KC's View:
And so, if you are a retailer that has traditionally catered to a female customer base, it is time to start thinking about how you need to change things up for the men who may be doing more of the shopping now.