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Controlling the Purse Strings: Women’s Growing Power in the Marketplace

Jun 07, 2018 01:44PM ● By Erin Holden

My father, though a capable man in almost all aspects of his life, is virtually incapable of buying his own pants. Here’s how it goes: My mother goes to the store, buys pants for my father, takes them home, and he tries them on. If they work out, her job is done. If they don’t, she brings the rejected pants back to the store and buys him a different pair. She is also the primary buyer of all household goods, which include items ranging from groceries to car parts.

Women make more than 80 percent of all consumer purchases and, though men are shopping more than they have in the past, women still outspend men by up to 14% per trip at big box stores and by 11% per trip in grocery stores. Those numbers add up. Also, women are not only the primary buyers of traditional household items, but a direct influence on major purchases like cars

Even when women are not directly involved in large purchases, it is clear that their influence on those decisions is a huge part of the process. For instance, even if a woman does not purchase a car, she is often the one making the decision because she is more aware of the daily needs of her family (think of carpooling with children and their friends, running errands, etc.). This influence, whether directly or indirectly, affects the marketplace.

Stay-at-home moms make up an incredible online presence. Seventy-seven percent of them will only write about products they approve of, and 14 % will write about those they are boycotting. This is important for businesses to consider because women seek guidance from each other when they are considering making a purchase, whether it is big or small. Sixty-four percent of stay-at-home moms ask other mothers for advice before buying new products. 

Stay-at-home moms are definitely a driving force in our economy, they make up a $2.4 trillion market. As Alethea Hutchinson points out in her article “The Influential Buying Power of a Stay-at-Home-Mom,” customers in grocery stores during nine-to-five working hours are largely absent, except for stay-at-home moms. If it weren’t for the steady influx of these customers, companies would be paying for labor and energy costs without making much money. These consumers keep the money flowing.   

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 46 % of couples living together and/or married make financial decisions equally; but, in households where one person makes the financial decisions, women make up 30 percent of financial decision-making and men make up only 19 percent. In other words, if someone is going to be the sole financial decision maker, it is now more likely to be the lady of the house.

Overall, it seems that women are overwhelmingly involved in how their household money is spent, whether it is as a joint decision-maker or sole decision-maker.

It’s also important to recognize the rising amount of female entrepreneurs as a factor in buying power. In a recent nationally published article, it was stated that the number of women owned and run businesses in the U.S. has increased by more than 57% over the past decade and that the U.S. is rated number one in the world for fostering an environment in which women can succeed.

It is clear that American women are an undeniably powerful force in our economy, so heads up Mr./Mrs. Car Sales person and pay attention Mr./Mrs. Customer Service person—the next time a woman walks up to your counter or sales room—you may want to listen a little more to what she’s saying.