If it’s anything like asking for directions…

From Liz, who said, “Duh.”

What Do Women Want? Just Ask – New York Times:

Published: October 29, 2006

FOR most of the 27 years it has been in business in Canada, Shane Homes has staked its claim as one of the country’s leading regional homebuilders the old-fashioned way: it devised and executed cookie-cutter designs for new houses just as fast as the orders came in. As the economy of its home base, Calgary, Alberta, soared on the back of oil and gas riches, it could have continued minting money by sticking with that tried-and-true approach. But two years ago, smack in the middle of a housing boom and heightened competition, Shane Homes dumped its old ways and adopted a new blueprint.

The overhaul began at a real estate conference in 2003, when Shane Wenzel, the builder’s namesake and its head of sales and marketing, heard a speech about the tremendous buying power of women. That moment, Mr. Wenzel recalled, was an “epiphany.” He set up small “listening groups” of women to tap into the needs of people who actually lived in his company’s homes. What Mr. Wenzel heard wasn’t pretty. “The ladies never held back once,” he said. “They were brutally honest.”

The kitchens in the company’s homes, the women said, were all wrong. The pantries were tiny, and the sinks needed to overlook a window so kids in the backyard could be monitored. And the mudrooms! They shared space with laundry rooms, meaning that dirty floors might sit right beneath clean laundry. (“It’s called a mud/laundry room?” one incredulous woman asked.) After that, Shane Homes subjected designs to similar grillings — before they were built — and adapted them accordingly. “Shane Homes had the revolutionary idea of asking women what they wanted in a home,” said Joanne Thomas Yaccato, a Toronto consultant and author who advised the company on female consumers. “The revolutionary part is that they not only listened, they actually built the darn thing.”

Shane Homes is hardly alone. More companies, in the United States and elsewhere, have realized that they overlook women at their own financial peril. The companies are realigning their marketing and design practices, learning to court an increasingly female-centric consumer base that boasts more financial muscle and purchasing independence than ever before.

“We are perhaps on the first step to a matriarchal society; women will earn more money than men if current trends continue by 2028,” said Michael J. Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group. “The trend has been escalating in the last 10 years as there has been a gradual, slow erosion of the power balance in the family, a psychic rebalancing.”

Women, Mr. Silverstein added, are “controlling purchases and driving a shift in our economy.”

Retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sears, Best Buy and others recognize that women are running their households like purchasing managers. Some are “identifying stores that have more female shoppers and offering additional services,” including sales support, customized signs and special product displays, said Dana L. Telsey, who runs her own independent research firm. Travel companies, automakers, and other companies, meanwhile, have had to cater to the tastes of women who have careers outside the home and are pursuing hobbies and other pricey interests. The phenomenon is readily apparent on the Internet, where Web sites built around the needs and interests of such groups as female homeowners and car buyers have gained steady traction.

Much of that shift has to do with education and pay. At American colleges and universities, women represent 57 percent of undergraduate classes and 58 percent of graduate classes, according to the American Council on Education. (They also hold a slight majority in the overall population.) And education, in turn, has helped to bolster salaries and income. In 2005, government data show, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $585, or 81 percent of the $722 median for their male counterparts, up from about 63 percent in 1979.

“Women are making 70 percent of travel decisions, for the family, for their own getaways or for people at work,” said Niki Leondakis, the chief operating officer of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants in San Francisco. “It’s surprising that more people are not including women in their marketing.””

The rest of the article is HERE.


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