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Beacon Senior News

The female economy is a force to be reckoned

Jul 26, 2021 03:23PM ● By Kimberly Blaker
A mature woman holds up fistfuls of cash

It's time to wise up to women's buying power


Women today account for or influence 70-80 percent of all buying decisions. The “female economy” was estimated by Forbes in 2017 to be worth $18 trillion, and continues to grow. These statistics reveal the crucial role women play in keeping the economy afloat—in good times and in bad.

As a result, many businesses have taken heed. Still, plenty of industries and companies remain behind the times when it comes to treating women as major consumers. They fail to see the power this segment possesses.

Women aren’t demanding preferential treatment, but they do expect equal treatment and respect. Most women can attest to occasions when their gender has negatively affected the service and attention they received. Additionally, women are still taken advantage of because of their lack of knowledge or perceived lack of knowledge in certain industries.

Women, however, have become increasingly educated consumers. Businesses that don’t recognize this are learning the hard way. Many women, offended by these biases, walk away from a purchase and go elsewhere.


House and home

Women today account for well over half of the spending on household goods and personal items. That’s because they take more interest in shopping for these items. Women control most of the expenditure not only on décor, linens and kitchen gadgets, but furniture, cabinetry, carpeting, lighting and more. They also push for the “honey dos” to get done. 

Sue Hughey’s husband arranged most of the repairs in their home while he was alive. Now widowed, she recently paid a company to repair her driveway only to later find out she was grossly overcharged.

“Now I stand my ground,” said Hughey, 86. “I do my research and always get three bids, no matter what.”

Furthermore, women play a significant role in the purchase of real estate, the biggest investment most families make. Married women also markedly influence real estate decisions. According to Grand Junction Realtor Angela Ingle, couples ultimately agree on the purchase together. Yet research conducted by a real estate firm in Houston found women make almost 80 percent of the home-buying decisions.

“Men mainly care about the garage and shop,” said Ingle. “It’s usually the woman who picks the home.” 

When buying a home, men and women each look for certain features. Women are most concerned with floor plan and design and how these factors will accommodate their lifestyle. 

According to a report by Lending Tree, in analyzing data from the 2017 American Community Survey, about 22 percent of single women are homeowners as opposed to only 13 percent of single men being homeowners.

“I know more women who are buying homes solo,” said Jan Weeks, 74, of Grand Junction. “They’re not relying on men.”

Probably one of the most under-recognized areas of women’s buying power, however, is in the tool and home improvement industry. With the surge in do-it-yourself remodeling, women have fast become one of the big spenders in tool departments and home improvement aisles. 

As a single woman, Weeks is used to doing most home projects by herself. She’s painted the entire inside of her current home, re-tiled both bathrooms, installed a fence, and still services her own air-conditioner.

“I do it all—unless there’s something I can’t lift,” she said.


Driving the auto industry

Another area where women play a crucial role is in the automotive industry. Women are responsible for almost half of new car sales and slightly over half of used car sales. Women influence 80 percent of all transactions. Not to mention, according to Ford Motor Marketing, 95 percent of women have the power to “veto” an automobile purchase. 

Ingle recalled a car shopping trip years ago with her ex-husband. 

“We went to purchase a vehicle for me and the salesperson didn’t even look me in the eye—didn’t even acknowledge me,” said Ingle, 60. “Even though I was the one buying the car.” 

When Weeks test drove a car earlier this year, she found the salesman off-putting. 

“He really pushed me to buy now,” she recalled. “He kept saying, ‘This car’s not going to last long.”

She took the night to think about it. After researching the price, recall history and reading reviews, she returned to the dealer the next day, ready to buy.

“It irked me that he thought I was ignorant or fearful enough to believe that if I left at 5 in the evening, it wouldn’t be available at 8 the next morning,” she said. “And I told him that!”

Women, according to a report by the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, “are not only becoming more influential in deciding what car to buy, they are also taking over the traditionally male-dominated responsibility of maintenance and repair.” 

“Women ask more questions, inquire about details, and are more willing to look under the hood, or check out parts,” said Diane Hohman, an automotive aftermarket consultant. 


Health, travel and leisure

Angela Ingle, Jan Weeks and Sue Hughey pose inside Zephyr in Grand Junction.

 

Women spend increasing amounts on clothing, entertainment and electronics—not just for them, but for their husbands, children and grandchildren as well. 

Women’s voices are gaining prominence in the health care industry. Since they make at least two-thirds of the health care decisions in U.S. households, many health care systems are paying particular attention by marketing and making improvements to services affecting them. 

Women are equally important to the travel market. They make 70 percent of all travel decisions, and are the larger clientele of adventure travel. They also participate in more leisure activities than men and are much more likely to order room service while traveling alone. 


Add age to the mix

Age is an additional hurdle that women are fighting to overcome.

“What I’ve found is that if a single woman of a certain age goes out to a restaurant or a bar, it’s ‘Here’s your drink, give me your money, and adiós!’ It’s like you don’t exist because you’re not a 20-something size 2,” said Weeks. “I hear this from a lot of women my age, especially about how they’re treated by younger people.” 

What this all boils down to is two-fold. Being America’s biggest consumers, women not only keep the economy from becoming stagnant during times of stability. They keep it from collapsing during a recession. This means women are gaining the upper hand in the way that businesses treat them. 

“It’s getting better because businesses are realizing we’re not going to put up with a lot of their crap!” said Weeks.

 

5 tips to take back purchasing power 

(Men can use these, too!)

1. Be prepared to walk. Sellers may try to pressure you, but don’t be afraid to set time limits and go home to think about a purchase, returning when you’ve done some research or made up your mind.

2. Compare prices. Print out prices from competitors to see if sellers will price match, or get multiple bids on a project to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.

3. Trust your gut. If you get an uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, chances are the seller has manipulated you into feeling like you have to make the purchase even when you aren’t sure you want to. In that case, walk out the door and don’t look back.

4. Don’t make a purchase based on emotions. Some of the best salespeople are very personable. Don’t buy their product to do them a favor, or feel like you owe them something because they lowered the cost significantly. If the product isn’t exactly what you were hoping for, keep shopping.

5. Bring a trusted friend. When it comes to big purchases, consider inviting someone who isn’t so closely tied to the product to give some objective observations on the purchase. This is especially helpful if you tell them what features you’re looking for beforehand.