04 January 2011

The Shopping Conspiracy Theory

The other day I was so excited to have scored some cute cargo khakis on clearance at the good old Target (and yes, the words "cute" and "cargo khakis" can go together…at least in my world). When I am throwing the tags in the trash, I notice the tags from Chris' new, nearly identical, pants in there and well, the full price on the men's version was the same, or less, than the clearance price on the women's. So what is up with that? I am sure this phenomenon has existed forever and I am only just noticing, but come on now.

Is it because women are just generally willing to pay more for clothes? I can kind of see this, I have come to an age where I will pay some increase in price for the thing that fits better, or hangs right, or whatever. Perhaps this is more universally true than I thought. While an obsession with fashion and looking good is no longer purely a woman's domain, I can see how it would still be perceived that women place a greater premium on good clothing and therefore, they will pay more. For the same item. Only less useful. And made of less material.

Maybe because men don't shop sales? I know that I rarely pay full price and I have an entire wardrobe made up of items that were found on the clearance racks of all your favorite stores. Perhaps the pricing plan includes the 30%-50% that will get knocked off when it get "clearanced" in two weeks and then bought in bulk by women who are thrilled with the sweet deal they found. This seems counterintuitive to the popular belief that men will just pay the price for the first item they find that meets their basic requirements, but in terms of retail economics, it makes sense. Once the men's clothing hits the sale racks, it might as well be scrap, so get the money up front and take the loss on the rest. As compared to women's where I imagine the bulk of sales come from things being on sale, on special or on clearance, this plan makes sense.

I suppose it is of no real consequence, but it is puzzling to me. While my knee-jerk feminism says "of course women pay more for the same crap, since they generally make less, it makes perfect sense to make them pay more to look the same," but I am sure it is not that sinister. In reality the buying patterns of men and women do vary enough to make this pricing plan make sense. I would imagine at the end of the day it all comes down to consistency in buying. Men's fashion seems to change at a much slower pace than women's so there may be a better market for staples like khakis and basic button downs than this season's "it" sweater. There must be an increased cost of designing, producing and distributing the new trends (that will be cast aside in a matter of months) whereas the men's button down hasn't evolved much in 100 years. While my khakis are this season's cut, color and fabric, Chris' are probably the same ones that Target has been producing for 10 years.

This is why I generally stick with jeans (classic, straight-ish leg, vaguely trouser-style) and long sleeve tees…I figure the look of "hey I bathed and got laundry done today" never goes out of style. That is my fashion plan and I am sticking to it.

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