It's one of those stereotypes as old as time itself - the idea that females spend a far longer amount of time on their appearance than males is basically a given from everything we see in entertainment and in a lot of cases real-life, but financially it turns out this might not be the case.
While Barclaycard aren't exactly the world's leading scientific or statistical authority, their recent survey
of British consumers in association with Atomik Research has raised the possibility that a common age-old societal conception might possibly be a myth.
Querying over 2,000 of their customers and 250 retail chains on a number of topics relating to consumer spending, the headline finding was, simply put, that men are spending more on fashion and grooming than women.
The biggest goal from the survey appeared to be finding the simple stat of how much an average person of each gender spends on various types of product or service, and the numbers at first glance are very surprising. As the title claims, it was found that on fashion items (clothes and shoes), men spent an average of £114.00/month, compared to £88.70 from women. While for grooming products the average was £40.90 - £35.30, and grooming services £39.30 - £37.10 per month, respectively.
However, it should be noted that men were outspending women in all of the areas surveyed, meaning there's more to the numbers than the headline would suggest (insert your various theories on society here). And fans of the traditional stereotype will be pleased to find that the disparity between male and female monthly spending is indeed at its lowest in the fashion and particularly the grooming categories, far lower proportionally compared with the classically male-dominated areas such as electronics and sports tickets, though the amounts of money involved were much more varied, with shoes and grooming products each on their own accounting for more of a man's monthly spend than sports tickets.
And it also appears as though women spending more time in the fashion and beauty area still rings true, as many men in the survey voiced their dislike of long queues in shops (40% citing a wait of more than 5 minutes as being enough of a motivator to leave the store without making a purchase, while 42% and 36% cited 'not having the right size' and 'crowded shops' as other reasons respectively), and were the cause of just 26% of all item returns, suggesting more of a focus on getting their purchases done in one trip as a functional activity rather than the more recreational pursuit that the opposite gender is so often portrayed with.
Speaking on his company's findings, Barclaycard's Head of Payment Solution Strategy George Allardice stated: "It's eye opening to see the tension between men spending more money on shopping and grooming, but still not enjoying the experience. Even though they spend more on shopping than having beers with friends or watching their favourite footie team, the idea of retail therapy is still lost on British men. We know that retailers are increasingly becoming savvy to men spending more on clothing and grooming, and so have been increasingly expanding their male offering over the past few years. However retailers need to continue to innovate to ensure the whole shopping experience is as enjoyable for men as it is for women - whether that's online, mobile or instore. Simple changes such as ensuring a wide range of sizes are stocked and reducing queues at the till could lead to an increase of men shopping 'til they drop."
Regardless of the caveats, it is clear from the numbers alone that the 'male slob' caricature is not as stable as it once was and is definitely a consumer force to be reckoned with, one which retailers and manufacturers are picking up on as detailed in the consumer side of the survey. And a side-effect of that trend is that it's also becoming far more 'acceptable' for men to be seen spending money on their appearance, the study doesn't quite break down how much of that male grooming money gets spent on facial hair, but there is of course a trend of it's own that is likely to tie in with the increased spending, as more and more beard-growers look to take better care of it than just putting some shampoo on and calling it a day.
While from the looks of the numbers it seems quite a few men won't have a leg to stand on the next time they moan about an expensive dress or makeup set being bought by a wife/girlfriend/daughter, the plus side is that it's generating plenty of options and social acceptability for men wanting to spend money in those areas, including of course for beard and moustache affectionados. Also it means sitcoms may have to get a little more creative...