Mike Galaska does not like to shop. He doesn't like the crowds or spending money. It's for women, he says. But pizza and beer? He can handle that...
OMAHA, Neb. — Mike Galaska does not like to shop. He doesn’t like the crowds or spending money. It’s for women, he says.
But pizza and beer? He can handle that.
Galaska, 48, of Bellevue, Neb., was among the hundreds of men who came out for men’s night at Omaha jewelry store Borsheim’s this week, which uses free pizza and beer to counteract the otherwise intimidating notion of buying jewelry.
High-end retailers such as Borsheim’s — part of billionaire Warren Buffett’s empire — are changing the way they market themselves and their products to attract male shoppers. Men are shopping more and can be freer with their wallets under the right circumstances, as retailers have found.
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Men will buy an estimated $49 billion in apparel this year, a 5 percent rise from last year, said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at NPD Group, a market-research company. Men now buy 70 percent of their own clothing, up from 25 percent in 1985, so stores are doing what they can to attract these often reluctant shoppers, he said.
That is especially evident around the holidays. Stores hold functions tailored specifically to men and increasingly women, who are often encouraged to fill out wish lists to make shopping easier for men.
Saks Fifth Avenue brought in Playboy centerfolds to act as men’s personal shoppers earlier this month in New York. Centerfolds aside, men’s nights are also being held at shopping malls around the country, such as at King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Penn., and Fox River Mall in Appleton, Wis.
Galaska’s wife filled out her wish list the previous week at Borsheim’s ladies’ night. All Galaska had to do this week was say her name, and clerks began to bring out what his wife wanted.
“Whatever she brings, I’m going to buy,” Galaska said of the salesclerk.
And buy he did — a silver chain necklace — before getting more pizza and beer.
For five years now, men have been attending the night geared exclusively to them at Borsheim’s.
After the success of the first year, organizers decided to hold a ladies’ night the previous week so women could make their lists, said Susan Jacques, CEO of the company, owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
On a recent weeknight, about 1,200 women filled the 45,000-square-foot Borsheim’s to drink wine and Perrier, eat pint-size pastries and fill out their holiday wish lists.
Men typically wait until the second week of December to begin their holiday shopping, which creates a strain on businesses, Jacques said. She likened the tradition of shopping on Christmas Eve to the opening of hunting season.
So the store decided to draw in those customers and create a party atmosphere, which lowers the intimidation factor for men, she said. This year, men sat in leather lounge chairs and registered to win a Berkshire Hathaway Monopoly set autographed by Buffett.
“We like to give them the chance to relax, unwind, do more at the last minute and make them comfortable,” Jacques said.
This trend is found among high-end retailers because they can afford to create shopping experiences for their customers, said Jean-Pierre Dube, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
“It’s painful to shop for feminine things,” Dube said. “It’s embarrassing. Anything you can do to make it easier and more comfortable will increase the likelihood they’ll do more impulse buying.”
High-end stores have realized they’d rather have less traffic and higher-priced sales than more volume, Cohen said. Men are much more likely to be upsold when they do decide to buy, so the extra attention pays off, he said.
Designer Nicole Miller’s 18 boutiques across the country have been holding their own men’s nights for years, featuring cocktails and modelesque saleswomen in evening wear who often know the men’s wives and what they want.
It originally borrowed the idea from jewelry stores, said Bud Konheim, CEO of Nicole Miller Ltd.
Sales can increase as much as tenfold when a men’s night is held and morale among salespeople stays high for weeks afterward, Konheim said.
“It’s a very easy atmosphere for a guy to get lulled into having a good time and spending a lot of dough,” he said.