To Buy or Not to Buy: How Opposite Sexes Make Shoe Decisions

How opposite sexes make decisions regarding shoes

When Anna Vaysman needed shoes for her Chicago wedding -- she ordered eight pairs. Taking advantage of Zappos.com's lenient return policy, she tried them all on but only kept two of the eight pairs for her big day. She admits browsing through hundreds of shoes -- both online and off -- before making her choice. On the other hand, her husband picked "The" shoe after carefully examining only six pairs. "I'm not a shopohalic, but I like shoes a lot," Vaysman admits.

She's not the only one. With sales of shoes at $1.5 billion in October, this is an objet d'art for American women and one we're still eager to purchase. The right pair of heels is the ultimate accessory to the perfect outfit, and the search for a comfortable sole is endless. "Women make more impulse driven purchases while men buy more for necessity," says Eileen Lewis, director of fashion strategy at the shoe retailer, which sells thousands of shoes each year.

For men, this process is more straightforward, and here the differences begin...

Men: If the shoe fits -- they will buy it
While it may not seem like it, men also have a shopping approach, it boils down to two words: be efficient!

"My strategy is to buy a shoe that is going to last -- not only in durability, but in style," says Nathan Geddie from New York. "I want a simple shoe, one that can be dressed up or down."

As women, this is tough to understand. We're surprised that there are rarely emotional strings attached. At the store, men walk in and can walkout with a shoe that's simply good enough minutes later. There's never a yearning for the famous Christian Louboutin red sole -- instead it's more utilitarian, explains Stephen Hoch a marketing professor at the University of Pennslylvania Wharton School who co-authored a study "Men Buy, Women Shop." For example, in the study men ranked the difficulty of finding parking close to the entrance (29 percent of men surveyed) as the number one problem in their shopping experience, while the women were concerned with "lack of help when needed" (29 percent of women surveyed) as their top deal breaker.

The simplicity of buying online is another matter. Currently, men spend 70 percent more on shopping online than women, according to Forrester Research. Unlike women, they're also not swayed by easy returns and would rather order the product than keep searching.

Women: Always waiting for the "right" moment
We agree when other women compare finding yet another pair of perfect shoes to walking on air or even falling in love.

But it's not only the shoe that has to impress -- it's the entire package. Customer service is a must explains Delia Passi, CEO of WomenCertified, a marketing firm in Hollywood, Florida. "They not only want to be pointed in the right direction, but to be escorted and empowered to make the right decision," says Passi and adds that women, unlike men, regularly turn to sales employees for help. "If she is not treated the way she wants to be treated she will talk with her feet and walk."

And unlike men, those of us without the Y chromosome consider walking into some shoe stores a pleasure in itself. Our favorite? The Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store Shoe Salon which boasts it's own zip code. The eighth floor space also has its own express elevator, a VIP room and a repair service. "Value must exceed cost to win her over, and that means being treated well," adds Passi.

Being at a sale is another story. Once we find the perfect fit, we're willing to scoop it right up -- no questions asked.

So what does this all mean during the busiest shopping month of the year? Research suggests it's best to go your separate ways and meet back at home. With such different styles of shopping, a male-female holiday trip to the mall is bound to turn into a battle.

And now that we've deciphered how exactly it is that you shop, it's time to tackle that pressing question of storage space. We, for one, will ask Santa for a walk-in shoe closet.

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• The hair candy gallery

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