Young Adult Women Outpace Men in Most Spending Categories

Article excerpt

Adult women under 35 account for a larger proportion of retail purchases than any other consumer group in the United States. This fact has long been an open secret among those advertising experts and consumer specialists who keep an eye on connections between marketing strategies and the shifting sands of population growth. The country's population is aging, people are living longer, and many youth have more money to spend. Most retail merchandisers, however, believe that adult women from 18 to 35 remain, as they have in the past, the principal customers for particular kinds of goods.

In 1984, the Newspaper Advertising Bureau published a survey showing that adults from 18 to 35 years of age accounted for a share of purchases larger than their respective proportion of the total U.S. population. The age group comprised the major customers for 15 categories of retail merchandise:

* women's wear

* men's wear

* children's and infant's wear

* jewelry

* books, records, and tapes

* stationery and gift items

* toys, games, and hobby items

* household textiles, furniture, and furnishings

* small appliances

* major appliances

* household supplies

* hardware and tools

* home improvement items

* garden supplies

* automotive supplies

The categories excluded food and packaged goods such as drugs and toiletries.

Recent studies indicate that in the 15 years since the Newspaper Advertising Bureau study, some things have not changed, while some categories need to be modified. "Records and tapes" have become "CDs." Major appliances now include computers and computer-related items; perhaps the latter needs to be a separate category. No matter the category of purchase, however, merchandisers interviewed in person and by telephone at a number of shopping malls indicate that 18-to-35-year-olds (both male and female) comprise the most affluent group in the U.S. and are doing most of the spending.

Within the group, the male to female buying ratio is seen to be about even, but women appear to actually make more purchases than men do. There are only 5 of the 15 listed merchandise categories, for example, where men might truly make more purchases than women might. The five are: (1) men's wear; (2) sporting goods; (3) major appliances; (4) computers and computer-related items; and (5) automotive supplies. Women are believed to be the major retail customers, outnumbering men as purchasers in all other categories.

One expert believes that the percentage of customer purchases is higher among the women's group because women's wear has traditionally generated more shopping and buying than any other category of retail merchandise. …