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What Consumers Really Think About Vaccines and Returning to Stores

As coronavirus vaccinations continue to roll out across the country, male shoppers are gearing up to return to retail.

That’s according to First Insight, whose data shows that more men than women across generational cohorts plan to shop in store after being vaccinated, visiting retail more often or at the same frequency as they had before receiving their vaccines.

Among millennials, 64 percent of male respondents said they plan to continue to shop for apparel at brick-and-mortars, or ramp up their browsing and buying, compared with just 45 percent of women. That trend is consistent across age demographics, with 61 percent of Baby Boomer men and 47 percent of Boomer women saying the same. Notably, the chasm between male and female Gen Z respondents was the widest, with 56 percent of men saying they’d eagerly head back to retail to shop for clothes, and just 36 percent of women agreeing. Similar tendencies persisted across the footwear and beauty categories, with men showing more gusto for in-person purchases than women across the board.

According to the research, men of all ages are also more inclined to get vaccinated than their female counterparts. Nearly half (48 percent) of female Gen Z respondents said they were unsure about the vaccine or would forego it altogether, while just 26 percent of men from the same age group said the same. Millennials are even more divided, with 41 percent of women expressing ambivalence about vaccination, compared with 13 percent of male consumers. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers were slightly more aligned, with dubious women in the 30th percentile for both groups, and unconvinced men in the 20th percentile.

These attitudes also prevail across gender and generational lines when it comes to mask-wearing post-vaccine. According to First Insight, more than three-fifths of male Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and millennials will continue to don face coverings even after they’ve received their doses, and about half of Gen Z respondents said the same. But just 56 percent of female Boomers, 48 percent of Gen X, 45 percent of millennials and 39 percent of Gen Z said the same.

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“Across the board, our data found that it’s not just men feeling comfortable returning to stores compared to women—but across generations, men are more inclined to get vaccinated, head in-store after vaccination and continue to wear masks after getting vaccinated,” First Insight CEO Greg Petro told Sourcing Journal. What’s more, data found that “men feel more comfortable than women trying on products in a dressing room, trying on shoes, testing beauty products and makeup and working with a sales associate,” he added.

According to Petro, over half of male respondents of all ages expressed that they would feel comfortable visiting department stores, local small businesses, warehouse clubs like Costco, big-box retailers like Target and Walmart and shopping malls, while all generations of women’s responses to these venues hovered in the low 40th percentile. Shopping malls scored lowest with female shoppers, with just 37 percent saying they plan to return with similar or greater frequency after they receive their doses.

The news could help to inform retailers’ strategies over the coming months, Petro said, as the post-pandemic world begins to open up. “We previously uncovered the rise of the emerging male power shopper, and the pandemic has only amplified this trend,” he said, pointing to First Insight’s 2019 study that showed men visiting online channels like Amazon, department stores, big box stores and even luxury retailers with more frequency than women. While just 15 percent of women reported visiting stores like Kohl’s or JCPenney six or more times a month, for example, one-quarter of men copped to visiting them regularly. Upscale retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as luxury boutiques run by labels like Gucci and Prada saw 19 percent of men versus 5 percent of women stopping in six or more times a month in 2019.

“Retailers and brands need to loosen their grip on the misperception that shopping is female dominated,” Petro said this week. “There’s no better time to incorporate the signal from the Voice of the Customer,” he added, and stores looking to jumpstart sales after seasons of stagnation should revise their assortments and promotions to appeal to the shoppers who are most likely to visit their stores in the coming weeks and months.

“Retailers and brands need to gather insights and adjust inventory to ensure they are targeting the right customers at the right price,” he added.