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Journal of Consumer Marketing

Emerald Article: Gender differences in information search strategies for a Christmas gift Michel Laroche, Gad Saad, Mark Cleveland, Elizabeth Browne

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To cite this document: Michel Laroche, Gad Saad, Mark Cleveland, Elizabeth Browne, (2000),"Gender differences in information search strategies for a Christmas gift", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 Iss: 6 pp. 500 - 522 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/07363760010349920 Downloaded on: 08-12-2012 References: This document contains references to 68 other documents Citations: This document has been cited by 35 other documents To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com This document has been downloaded 3582 times since 2005. *

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Michel Laroche, Gad Saad, Mark Cleveland, Elizabeth Browne, (2000),"Gender differences in information search strategies for a Christmas gift", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 Iss: 6 pp. 500 - 522 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/07363760010349920 Michel Laroche, Gad Saad, Mark Cleveland, Elizabeth Browne, (2000),"Gender differences in information search strategies for a Christmas gift", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 Iss: 6 pp. 500 - 522 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/07363760010349920 Michel Laroche, Gad Saad, Mark Cleveland, Elizabeth Browne, (2000),"Gender differences in information search strategies for a Christmas gift", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 Iss: 6 pp. 500 - 522 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/07363760010349920

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Gender differences in information search strategies for a Christmas gift

Michel Laroche Gad Saad
Professor of Marketing, Faculty of Commerce and Administration, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Associate Professor of Marketing, Faculty of Commerce and Administration, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Mark Cleveland

MSc graduate in Marketing, Faculty of Commerce and Administration, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Elizabeth Browne

MSc graduate in Marketing, Faculty of Commerce and Administration, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Keywords Gender, Shopping, Marketing information, Consumer behaviour Abstract Examines the underlying determinants of in-store information search for a Christmas clothing gift, specifically focusing on gender differences. Two non-personal (general and specific) and one personal (sales clerk assistance) in-store information search domains were obtained from the results of a survey of actual consumers carried out shortly after the Christmas season. Consistent with the predictions of the selectivity model, females appeared to comprehensively acquire in-store information, whereas males appeared to heuristically limit their search to a smaller subset of in-store information. More specifically, females scored significantly higher than males on indices of both general and specific information search. Females, compared to males, were also found to start Christmas shopping much earlier, purchase more gifts, and embark on a greater number of shopping trips. Other observed gender differences are discussed.

Determination of information search

Introduction Marketers have long known that consumers vary in the amount and type of effort they exert when shopping. The relevance for marketers and retailers is that the amount and type of search effort expended by a market segment serves as an important determinant of the appropriate marketing strategy for that segment (Slama and Tashchian, 1985). Although the personal and situational variables affecting consumer information search have been fairly well documented (for example, involvement, experience, time pressure), less is known about the determinants of information search for gift purchases. It has been stated that, aside from purchases for self and family, gift purchases are the most frequent purchase activity conducted by consumers (Smith and Beatty, 1985). According to a report on shopping by Household Spending (1997, as cited in Ruth et al., 1999), over 100 billion dollars per year is spent on gifts in the USA. Expenditures for gifts represent more than 3 percent of the annual budget of the average household (Garner and Wagner, 1991). The Christmas season is crucial for many retailers, often accounting for 40-50 percent of yearly sales and profits (Smith and Beatty,
The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the FCAR, Quebec, and the assistance of Isabelle Miodek.
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1985). In recognition of this fact, researchers have characterized Christmas as the most complex gift exchange occasion in North America (Otnes and Woodruff, 1991; Otnes et al., 1993). Different patterns The idea that men and women exhibit different patterns of shopping behavior has over the years attracted considerable attention (e.g. Fischer and Arnold, 1994; Buttle, 1992; Qualls, 1987; Darley and Smith, 1995). Because Christmas shopping may represent a scene in which sex-role orientations are enacted (Buttle, 1992), it offers a potentially rich source of information to study differences in shopping behavior between men and women. This paper responds to the call by several researchers (e.g. Darley and Smith, 1995; Meyers-Levy and Sternthal, 1991) for more empirical research on gender differences in consumer behavior. The scope of our analysis is limited to instore information search activities for a Christmas clothing gift. We begin with a brief review of the relevant literature on consumer information search; the biological, sociological, and psychological explanations offered for observed gender differences in consumer behavior; gift-giving; and finally, gender differences with respect to Christmas shopping. Determinants of consumer information search Research has shown that consumers tend to differ on both the extent of actual physical shopping, and the likelihood of using either neutral or personal sources of information (Westbrook and Fornell, 1979; Beatty and Smith, 1987). The utility equation advanced by Engel et al. (1973) states that an individual would continue searching as long as the perceived value of information exceeds the cost of obtaining this information. This view represents a departure from traditional economic theory which states that ``the rational consumer will list all conceivable actions and their consequences, choose the best, and consistently stick to his choice'' (Katona, 1960, p. 138). It has long been suspected, however, that personal, psychographic, and situational factors interact to influence the extent of information acquisition. Based on the earlier work of Newman (1977) and Bettman (1979), Moore and Lehmann (1980) summarize the determinants of consumer information search into the following broad categories:

Utility equation

market environment (e.g. the number of alternatives, information availability); situational variables (such as time, social and financial pressure, ease of access to information sources); potential payoff/product importance (e.g. price, social visibility, perceived risk); knowledge and experience; individual differences, including ability, training, approach to problemsolving (e.g. preplanning, innovativeness), approach to search (e.g. enjoyment of shopping, sources of information), involvement, demographics (such as age, income, education, marital status, household size, and occupation); personality/life-style variables (such as self-confidence); and conflict and conflict resolution strategies.

. .

. .

The intensity of external search is generally thought to be moderated by two individual difference variables: value importance (or involvement), and prior

knowledge/experience (Punj and Stewart, 1983). Involvement (i.e. an arousal or concern about the purchase decision) figures prominently in consumer search effort theories. Consumers are thought to engage in systematic, or comprehensive search under high-involvement conditions, but minimize search activity and rely on simple schemas or cognitive heuristics under lowinvolvement conditions (Engel and Blackwell, 1982; Chaiken, 1982). Consumer experience with the task and/or product has been shown to moderate an individual's level of search activity. Johnson and Russo (1984) have postulated that an ``inverted-U'' shaped relationship exists between search activity and consumer experience. The increasing part of the curve represents the superior ability of an experienced individual to encode new information. The decreasing part of the curve may be attributable to the ability of experts to ignore irrelevant information (Johnson and Russo, 1984) or to the ``paradox of familiarity'' (advanced by Britton and Tesser, 1982), whereby experts ``often truncate activation of their familiarity because the effort needed to employ it does not seem worthwhile'' (Moorthy et al., 1997, p. 269). Perceptions of risk and time pressure Consumers' perceptions of risk and time pressure have also been shown to affect information search behavior. An empirical analysis of female household heads by Hugstad et al. (1987) found consumers engaged in different search behaviors across situations involving varying levels of perceived risk. In understanding consumer search behavior, it is important to distinguish between performance risk, which is likely to be more important for functional products (such as motor oil), and psychological risk, which is likely to be felt for symbolic products, such as a Christmas gift (Midgley, 1983). Aside from social risk, financial risk is incurred when purchasing a product. The greater the cost of the product, the higher the degree of financial risk. Bauer (1960) identified a number of strategies that consumers are thought to use in order to reduce risk (and that may also limit search), including brand loyalty, favoring advertised brands, always buying the cheapest brand, and following opinion leaders (as cited in Newman, 1977). Additionally, some individuals may rely on the advice of a shopping companion as a means of reducing the social risk of a bad purchase. Time pressure is generally believed to be inversely related to total search effort. If one has more available time, one will be motivated to search more, all other things being equal (Beatty and Smith, 1987). Many purchase decisions are made by more than one individual in the household, such as a joint decision reached by both husband and wife. Research has also shown that the presence of children affects household decision-making. Swinyard and Sim's (1987) study concluded that ``family'' decision-making is not the same as ``husband-wife'' decision-making. Children, especially as they grow older, actually have quite an influence on the purchase of a large number of products. Thus the presence of children in the household, especially older children, needs to be taken into consideration when attempting to explain consumer shopping behavior. In-store information sources Non-personal in-store information sources include advertising and product information signage, point-of-purchase displays, and actual product packaging. The extent of these information sources, as well as the selection of products available naturally varies from store to store. Earlier research has found that broad product selection is an extremely important criterion for gift shoppers in considering which stores to patronize (Mattson, 1982). Sales clerks represent an important personal source of both in-store information

Purchase decisions

and gift ideas for many consumers. Studies have shown, however, that even when salespeople are available, some consumers will not always access them (Sherry and McGrath, 1989; Ryans, 1977). The likelihood of a consumer seeking sales clerk assistance may be a function of situational circumstances (for example, when the consumer is facing time pressure, or considering an expensive and/or risky gift purchase). Different social pressures Gender differences Because men and women often occupy different social roles, they are subjected to different social pressures (Darley and Smith, 1995). It has been suggested that, compared to males, females are more likely to conform (Sistruck and McDavid, 1971) and are more influenceable (Aronson, 1972). Worchel and Cooper (1976) suggest that these differences in conformity rates may be attributable to gender socialization processes: while men are taught to be independent thinkers and to assert themselves, women generally are not similarly encouraged. Males and females have been postulated to employ significantly different information processing strategies. Studies have shown that men and women differ in aspects of their consumer behavior, from the products they tend to buy to their responses to advertising and product positioning (Buttle, 1992; Fischer and Arnold, 1990). For example, Krugman's (1966) study determined that women elaborated ads to a larger degree than men, regardless of whether the ads focussed on male or female content. Similarly, Meyers-Levy and Sternthal (1991) reported that, in comparison with men, women appeared to have a lower threshold for elaborating on message cues, and thus made greater use of such cues when judging products. Finally, Zeithaml (1985) found that even for the same products, men and women often shop differently (in terms of the amount of pre-search activity and time spent in stores). Explanations for gender differences Various biological, sociological, and trait-based explanations have been put forward for these gender differences (Fischer and Arnold, 1994). One partial explanation offered by Moschis (1985) is that females generally receive more purposive consumer training from parents than males. Meyers-Levy's (1994) analysis of research conducted on gender differences in cortical organization identified three propositions that suggest how hemispheric activity may contribute to gender differences:

males tend to be right-hemisphere dependent, excelling at tasks associated with right-hemisphere functioning (such as non-verbal production, visual spatial processing); females tend to be left-hemisphere dependent, excelling at tasks associated with left-hemisphere functioning (such as verbal processing); and males' hemispheres are more specialized than females' hemispheres. She theorizes that because males rely on right-hemisphere processing, they would be expected to rely on ``global rules or categorical concepts'' when processing information, whereas females are expected to analyze ``the specificities and intricacies represented or implied'' (p. 114) in the presence of stimulus information.

In her analysis on the influence of sex roles on judgment, Meyers-Levy (1988) determined that in general, males are characterized as being relatively self-focussed, whereas females are more sensitive to the needs of both self and others. Synthesizing the results of earlier studies, she states that while

males are guided by agentic goals (encompassing self-assertion, selfefficacy, and mastery), females are guided by communal concerns (including interpersonal affiliation, a desire to be at one with others, and harmonizing relations between themselves and disparate parties). This theory offers a partial explanation for gender differences in processing strategies. MeyersLevy (1988) concludes that ``males' adherence to a single-focussed agentic orientation may represent their more general propensity to base responses on a rather selective consideration of available cues; whereas females adherence to a communal orientation may be indicative of a broader tendency to consider a variety of cues as a basis of response'' (p. 529). Selectivity model According to the selectivity model (Meyers-Levy, 1989; Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran, 1991; Meyers-Levy and Sternthal, 1991), females attempt to engage in effortful, comprehensive, itemized analysis of all available information. Conversely, the model suggests that males often do not engage in comprehensive processing of information, but rather they are selective information processors, processing heuristically and, therefore, missing subtle cues. Females have been found to give equal weight to information relevant to self and others, whereas males tend to rely on a single cue or cues that are highly available and particularly salient in the focal context. In the context of advertising exposure, compared to females, males are posited to: encode fewer ad claims; and elaborate ad claims less extensively (Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran, 1991). The results of a study conducted by Darley and Smith (1995) found support for the selectivity model's predictions for how females process advertising claims; however the findings for males were somewhat mixed. Additionally, they found that females were adaptive to the task: as risk increased, females shifted from equally responding to objective and subjective ad claims, to favoring objective claims. Gender and shopping Shopping is still an activity in which the female plays a dominant role. Buttle (1992) argues that shopping is a scene in which sex-role orientations are enacted. His study found that while women do the majority of shopping for the family (e.g. groceries, clothing, etc.), in general, men could be described as specialist shoppers (e.g. for insurance, camping gear, and outdoor yard goods). Women have generally been thought to be more involved in the purchasing sequence than men, since women have traditionally been the family purchasing agents (Davis, 1971; Wilkes, 1975), and therefore perceive shopping as being associated with their role in the family (Slama and Tashchian, 1985). In their study on consumers' involvement with the purchasing activity, Slama and Tashchian (1985) found support for this theory, in that women were found to have higher levels of purchasing involvement. Interestingly, their hypothesis that working wives should have lower levels of purchasing involvement than traditional housewives was not supported. It had been expected that working women, similar to men, would perceive purchasing as less associated with their role in the family, and hence be less involved in it. A brief review of gift-giving research According to Belk (1979, p. 95), ``gifts are generally given to others in order to symbolize and celebrate important life events, religious history, and family relationships.'' His comprehensive analysis of the relevant gift-giving literature yielded four different functions of gift-giving as:

Dominant role for female

(1) a symbolic form of communication between the giver and recipient; (2) a form of social exchange, aiding in establishing, determining, and maintaining interpersonal relationships; (3) an economic exchange (a means of conferring material benefit on a recipient); and (4) a socializer (affecting the self-concept and behavioral patterns of the recipient). It is possible that both information search and shopping strategies may vary as a consequence of these particular functions of gift-giving. Personal search activity Earlier research has generally found higher levels of personal search activity for gift purchases rather than personal purchases (Beatty and Smith, 1987). For example, Grnhaug (1972) found that for gift purchases, more alternatives were considered, and more stores were visited. Additionally, Clarke and Belk (1978) found that compared to non-gift purchases, gift purchases involved shopping in more stores, spending more time shopping, and also spending more money. Sherry (1983) developed what is probably the most comprehensive model of the gift exchange process. He divides gift-giving into three steps: (1) search and purchase of the gift (gestation); (2) the presentation, or exchange of the gift (prestation); and (3) the gift disposition and realignment of the giver/recipient relationship (reformulation: Ruth et al., 1999). Our study specifically focusses on the first stage of the gift-giving process. The main proposition offered by Sherry's model is that gift-giving decisions vary by level of involvement in the donor-recipient relationship. A number of studies have identified differences with respect to the giver/recipient relationship and the characteristics of exchange. Otnes et al. (1993) contend that different gift-selection strategies may reflect the importance of these relationships. Caplow (1982) found that different family members receive gifts of varying value: closer relatives generally received both more gifts and more expensive items. Gift selection strategies are also thought to vary depending on whether the recipient is perceived as easy or difficult (Otnes et al., 1993). Otnes and Woodruff (1991) contend that the gift-givers' stage in the family life-cycle could partially explain variations in gift-selection behavior. Overall, these additional moderating factors distinguish the gift purchase process from other forms of consumer behavior, such as a purchase for personal use or a habitual purchase. Active Christmas shoppers Christmas shopping: gender differences With respect to Christmas shopping characteristics, men and women display sharp differences. For example, in a study of gift buying behavior, Sherry and McGrath (1989) noted that women are much more active Christmas shoppers. Caplow (1982) determined that women purchase 84 percent of all gifts. A recent survey determined that women are more likely than men to say they have been influenced by marketing tactics aimed at getting them to buy holiday merchandise sooner than they had planned (Maritz Marketing Research, 1997 in Speer, 1997). Additionally, it was found that women generally finished their holiday shopping considerably earlier than men did. Christmas shopping is commonly construed as ``women's work.'' The results of a study conducted by Fischer and Arnold (1990) suggest that women are

more involved than men in the activity of Christmas shopping. This may stem from the fact that traditionally, women have had primary responsibility for all duties related to children. This stereotype is likely to support gender differences in Christmas shopping: women may view these duties as compulsory, while men, classifying it as women's work, may find it undesirable (Fischer and Arnold, 1990). Therefore, it is expected that women would be much more involved than men in Christmas shopping. Since females are likely to seek out more information and deliberate more over alternatives, women are also expected to spend more time shopping per recipient, than men. Underlying determinants The central purpose of this study is to expose the underlying determinants of males' and females' in-store information search for a specific Christmas gift. Based on a review of the relevant literature on gender differences in consumer behavior, and more specifically, the propositions of the selectivity model, the following research hypothesis is proposed: H1: Females are expected to exhibit a more comprehensive, intensive information search process, and a greater overall use of in-store information sources; whereas males are expected to exhibit a simpler, selective information search process, and a lower usage of available instore information sources. Methodology Consumers were surveyed by means of a self-administered questionnaire that considered situational, demographic, psychographic, and in-store information search variables. Despite the lack of control measures inherent in this non-experimental design, it was decided that a field survey would be the most appropriate means of gathering data. Questionnaires were personally distributed to randomly selected households (n = 731) in various neighborhoods in a large metropolitan city. Additionally, individual consumers were approached through a mall-intercept method (n = 295). Respondents mailed back their completed surveys using pre-paid postage return envelopes; which resulted in 364 usable questionnaires. Clothing most popular gift Part I of the questionnaire consisted of 46 questions designed to measure the respondent's actual situation during the purchase of a specific Christmas gift (clothing), as well as his/her use of in-store information sources for the same purchase. A review of the literature indicated that clothing was the most popular type of gift purchased, particularly at Christmas (Belk, 1979; Caplow, 1982). All but three of the questions in Part I employed ten-point Likert scales, on items such as giver/receiver relationship variables, perceived risk, giftgiving experience, product familiarity, felt time pressure, budget variables, previous external search, the store environment, and the dependent variable: in-store information search. Included among the questions was a single-item measure asking respondents' overall evaluation of his/her total in-store information search (as a check against the other items). Part II consisted of 56 questions designed to measure personal characteristic variables, including aspects of an individual's tastes, preferences, or attitudes that could be related to that person's Christmas shopping behavior (most of these questions were derived from Hui et al.'s 1993 study, and Wells and Tigert's 1971 study). Additionally, five other questions measured the variables of interest for the first two hypotheses:
. .

the total number of gift recipients for the respondent; the total amount spent on gifts;


. . .

the start; the finish of the gift-shopping period; and the total number of gift-shopping trips made.

Demographic variables

The third and final part of the survey concentrated on demographic variables. Questions included information about respondents' age, gender, marital status, household income, language spoken, education, and occupation. Additional questions inquired as to their family size, and the age of the youngest child at home. Questionnaires were distributed in French and English, to reflect the primary languages spoken in the area. All of the questionnaires were distributed between December 26 and February 12 in order to minimize the potential confound of memory effects. Results Descriptive statistics Table I summarizes the demographic characteristics of the sample. A large number of the survey respondents were female (284 subjects, versus 80 male subjects), which reflects the generally-held notion that women are the primary Christmas shoppers in the family unit. Almost 70 percent of the survey gifts given were to a member of the opposite sex. The gifts were mostly given by the respondent alone (70 percent), opposed to gifts given by two or more people. The average cost of the clothing gifts described in the

Variable Gender Age (p = 0.09) (years)

Range Male/female < 30 30-39 40-49 50-59 > 60 Single/widow/separated/divorced Married High school or less College University

Male (%) 22.0 17.5 20.0 35.0 16.3 11.3 19.0 81.0 12.5 28.8 58.8 10.0 10.0 26.3 53.8 78.7 21.3 20.3 13.9 32.9 32.9 66.3 33.8

Female (%) 78.0 20.8 30.3 29.2 15.1 4.6 28.7 71.3 20.8 26.1 53.2 9.5 21.8 28.2 40.5 55.4 44.6 25.6 20.6 40.1 13.7 54.9 45.1

Marital status (p = 0.08) Education (p = 0.32)

Household income (p = 0.07) ($) 0-19,999 20,000-39,999 40,000-59,999 60,000+ Occupation (p = 0.000) Family size (p = 0.000) Working Not working Two or less Three Four Five or more English French (years)

Language (p = 0.07) Age: youngest child at home (p = 0.16)

Average Average 11.6 9.8

Table I. Sample demographic characteristics


survey was $93.00. The median total expenditures on Christmas gifts for the season was $500.00 and gifts were purchased for, on average, ten people. Earlier start by women In order to determine gender differences with respect to the total number of gifts purchased during the Christmas season, a one-tailed t-test was conducted. The results were highly significant (p = 0.000): males, on average, purchased gifts for 7.3 recipients, while females, on average, purchased gifts for 11.3 recipients. Concerning the total number of shopping trips undertaken during the Christmas season, a Chi-square test (2 = 12.1, 3df., p = 0.007) revealed significant gender differences, with females generally undertaking considerably more shopping trips than their male counterparts (Table II). With respect to starting Christmas shopping, a Chisquare test (2 = 15.5, 3df., p = 0.001) again revealed significant differences, with women generally beginning their Christmas shopping earlier than men (Table II). More than half of the male respondents indicated that they waited until December to begin their Christmas shopping, while less than a third of the female respondents indicated the same. For finishing Christmas shopping, as one might expect, most respondents (both male and female) indicated that they finished shopping in December, thus the distribution was extremely skewed. A Chi-square test (2 = 0.636, 1df., p = 0.425) was nonsignificant. It appears that women, compared to men, generally spend more months involved in the task of Christmas shopping. Regression analyses To reduce the data into a smaller set of variables, a factor analysis was conducted (Appendix 1), using the principal components method and VARIMAX rotation. A reliability analysis was done for each factor; individual items were purified, and the factor analysis was rerun. For the personal characteristics section (part II), eight factors were identified, incorporating a total of 33 items (out of the original 53). Although the lowest factor loading was 0.5180, more than half of the loadings were greater than 0.70. Most Cronbach alphas were also quite high. With respect to the situational variables (Appendix 2), ten factors were identified, incorporating a total of 31 items (out of the original 43). Most of the loadings were greater than 0.70; however, a number of factor loadings were quite low (the lowest at 0.4128). Cronbach alphas were also quite high, although for difficult recipient, good selection, and product familiarity, they were merely
Male (%) Total number of shopping trips (season) (p = 0.007) 0-3 4-6 7-9 10+ January-September October November December November December Quantity 21.3 50.0 17.5 11.3 6.3 6.3 35.0 52.5 1.3 98.8 Average 7.3 Female (%) 22.2 30.6 24.6 22.5 12.3 16.2 40.8 30.6 2.8 97.2 Average 11.3

Factor analysis

Month started Christmas shopping (p = 0.001)

Month finished Christmas shopping (p = 0.425) Total number of gifts purchased (p = 0.000)

Table II. Gender differences shopping trips, start/finish Christmas shopping and number of gifts purchased

acceptable. Concerning in-store information search effort (Appendix 3), three factors were obtained: (1) general in-store information search effort; (2) specific-information search effort; and (3) information search effort through store sales personnel. For the purposes of this study, general in-store information search involves the individual examining the display area around the product, comparing prices, as well as other features among brands, and using signs around the area. Specific in-store information search concerns the individual's information gathering about a specific brand (e.g. reading the manufacturer's label, examining packaging, etc.). Finally, sales clerk help involves personal contact with a store employee for information purposes. Separate regression analyses were conducted for males and females, utilizing the mean of items in each factor as the construct measure. The demographic variables that were measured on nominal scales were converted to dummy variables (French = 0, English = 1; does not work = 0, works = 1; Single/ widowed/divorced/separated = 0, married = 1). Religious beliefs/upbringing were related to the religion (either Protestant or Catholic) that was declared by the respondent. The three items measuring religious beliefs and upbringing had Cronbach's alphas of 0.93 and 0.89 respectively. An ANCOVA was performed to assess gender differences on the three dependent variables, controlling for language, age, occupation, income, marital status, and family size. Males are less comprehensive searchers Structure of information search process The focus of our discussion on the males' and females' regression analyses will center on those variables or constructs that directly relate to the propositions offered by the selectivity model. Comparing Tables III and IV, it is clear that the information search process for females is considerably more complex than that of males (25 determinants versus 17 determinants respectively). For general and specific information searches, and salesclerk help, the female sample regression analysis yielded nine, eight, and eight determinants respectively, compared to males at eight, five and four determinants respectively. Only eight common determinants existed between the two groups, with nine and 17 unique determinants for men and women respectively. The ANCOVA results provide more evidence to support the notion that males are less comprehensive searchers, and rely more on heuristic strategies such as consulting a sales clerk when shopping for a Christmas clothing gift, and that females are more comprehensive and systematic when shopping for such a gift. These findings provide further support for the notion that females generally attempt to process all available information, provided that the total amount does not exceed their processing capacity (Sternthal, 1986). As shown in Table V, overall, females had a greater propensity to undertake both general and specific information searches, whereas males tended to rely on sales clerk assistance to a slightly greater degree. Determinants of male in-store information search Meyers-Levy (1989) posits that behaviors such as initiation, leadership, and assertion are consistent with males' agentic orientation. Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that the influencer construct appears as a determinant for both general information search and sales clerk help. Males, in adopting

Dependent variable

Independent variable

Coefficient 0.5073 0.2868 0.2537 0.3015 0.2615 0.1295 0.0951 0.1195 1.1385 0.2813 0.4161 0.2053 0.2394 1.3430 1.9807 0.3931 0.2955 0.3803 0.2636 2.1807

T 3.562a 2.464a 2.328b 2.399a 2.539a 1.460c 1.361c 1.771b 1.009 Adj. R2! 1.983a 2.031b 1.367c 2.292b 2.349b 1.156 Adj. R2! 2.436 2.887a 3.596a 1.938b 1.351 Adj. R2!

Marginal Group R2 contribution 0.2528 0.1083 0.2278 0.0831

Influencer General information Value seeker Name-brand buyer search Strict budget Time-pressur Costly gift Shopping list Helpful companion Constant F value: 5.99a Value seeker Specific information Motivated giver Strict budget search Costly gift Language Constant F value: 5.14a Sales clerk help Influencer Costly gift Availability of information Income Constant F value: 8.45a

0.3359 0.0927 0.0969 0.0244 0.2076 0.586 0.2150 0.0125 0.2740 0.0471 0.1867 0.0263 0.0899 0.0543 0.0478

Notes: The group adjusted R2 is obtained when only the group of variables (personal, situational, demographics) is regressed on the dependent variables. The marginal contribution is the loss of adjusted R2 obtained when the group of variables is removed from the regression a Significant at p < 0.01 (one-way); b Significant at p < 0.05 (one-way); c Significant at p < 0.10 (one-way)

Table III. Results of the regression analyses male subsample

the influencer role, may consult these sources of information in order to obtain a gift, which expresses their desire for self-assertion. Males encountering an abundance of information are likely to consult a salesclerk as a means of simplifying the environment and developing structure for the gift search process. Rather than attempting to process all of the available information, males go directly to sales personnel to quickly obtain what is needed. When purchasing a name-brand product, the brand name may serve as a surrogate for detailed product information, on which to base product judgments. Similarly, value-seeking males may use price as a heuristic device to aid product selection. The fact that ``costly gift'' appears as a determinant for all three sources of in-store information further suggests that males may heuristically consider a high product price as indicative of product quality and/or gift suitability. This finding is consistent with Sternthal's (1986) contention that males selectively attend to information that implies a single idea or inference. Selective acquisition by male shoppers On the whole, it appears that the average male shopper is selective in his acquisition of in-store information, perhaps due to his perception of being under time pressure. The purchase price of the gift figures prominently in males' shopping patterns: value seekers, individuals with a strict budget for shopping, and men considering a costly gift for purchase will tend to search


Dependent variable

Independent variables

Coefficient 0.2263 0.2558 0.4260 0.0739 0.0717 0.0843 0.0670 0.8344 0.0305 0.4962 0.4434 0.0944 0.3568 0.1605 0.3716 0.0305 0.8056 0.1403 2.7580 0.1281 0.0973 0.1882 0.1376 0.2301 0.3490 0.2949 0.0708 1.8241

T 3.186a 3.073a 6.401a 1.450c 1.446c 1.592c 1.303c 3.349a 1.910b 0.554 Adj. R2! 4.326 1.486c 4.758a 2.477a 2.716a 1.495c 2.365a 2.874a 2.709a Adj. R2! 1.989b 1.435c 3.152a 1.932b 4.325a 6.365a 2.175b 1.649b 1.863b Adj. R2!

Marginal Group R2 contribution 0.1428 0.1837 0.0622 0.1058

Value seeker General information Motivated giver Strict budget search Time pressure Costly gift Pre-determined gift selection Difficult recipient Language Age of youngest child home Constant F value: 13.55a Specific Motivated giver information Identity shaper search Strict budget Pre-determined gift selection Age Age of youngest child home Marital status Religion Constant F value: 10.92a Sales clerk Traditional help Christmas lover Leader Name-brand buyer Risky gift Costly gift Availability of information Education Religion Constant F value: 11.25a



0.2853 0.0674 0.0982 0.0870 0.0490 0.0705 0.0689

0.2191 0.0327 0.1812 0.0369 0.1828

0.0045 0.2247


Notes: The group adjusted R2 is obtained when only the group of variables (personal, situational, demographics) is regressed on the dependent variables. The marginal contribution is the loss of adjusted R2 obtained when the group of variables is removed from the regression a Significant at p < 0.01 (one-way); b Significant at p < 0.05 (one-way); c Significant at p < 0.10 (one-way)

Table IV. Results of the regression analyses female subsample

Adjustment means males General information search Specific information search Sales clerk help 4.95 4.18 5.79

Adjustment means females Significance 6.32 5.48 5.23 P = 0.000 P = 0.000 P = 0.094

Table V. Results of the ANCOVA on the dependent variables between males and females (covariates: language, age, occupation, income, marital status, family size)

the most; generics buyers the opposite of name-brand buyers search the least (since most generic clothing items are presumably less expensive). Among the sample, men characterized as being influencers and/or motivated givers also tended to engage in more comprehensive search patterns. Also among the group, it appears that English-speaking males are more likely to analyze product-specific information than their French-speaking counterparts. For males, the key set of determinants for general information search are the personal variables; for specific information search, neither personal nor situational variables dominate, but rather are equally important; while situational variables are dominant in determining the likelihood of using sales clerks. Determinants of female in-store information search The motivated giver construct appears as a highly significant determinant for females' likelihood of undertaking both general and specific information searches. This is possibly indicative of females' communal orientation, or concern for others as well as for self. A motivated female giver, investing time and effort into the gift search process, wants to ensure that the purchased gift will truly be liked by the recipient. Similarly, women with older children living at home were more apt to conduct both general and specific information searches. Interestingly, this variable did not appear as a determinant for males' in-store search strategies. This observation further supports the idea that compared to men, women exhibit a communal outlook, characterized by affiliation and a higher concern for others (Meyers-Levy, 1989). Predetermined gift selection A female with a predetermined gift selection in mind engages in less general information search (as she already has an idea of the type of product to choose), but engages more in specific information search (comparing available alternatives). This factor, which did not appear for males, further indicates females' greater involvement in the task of Christmas shopping, in terms of gift pre-search activities. The appearance of the traditional Christmas lover construct also provides more evidence of women's higher involvement level. Contrary to the propositions of the selectivity model, the leader construct appears as a determinant for females, but not for males. Female leaders are less likely to consult sales personnel (perhaps due to their greater selfconfidence in selecting an appropriate gift). Also rather unexpectedly, a female shopping for a difficult recipient is less apt to undertake a general information search. Since the selectivity model holds that females are guided by communal concerns (including the desire to harmonize relationships), it had been expected that females shopping for a difficult recipient would compare more and not fewer alternatives. It is possible that the task of shopping for a difficult recipient invokes feelings of psychological reactance (Clee and Wicklund, 1980), thereby creating a negative purchasing experience. In these instances, a female shopper may decide to forgo a general information search as a means of alleviating these negative emotions. Finally, a female self-characterized as an identity-shaper is (rather unexpectedly) less likely to examine product-specific information, although this observation was only marginally significant. Interestingly, and similar to the findings for males, females encountering an ``abundance of information'' are likely to consult a salesclerk. However, the underlying reason for a female to seek help may be different from that of a male. Recall that males heuristically access sales clerk help as a ``shortcut''

to obtaining the relevant information on which to base a purchase decision. Females, after comprehensively processing the available information, may still feel incapable of reaching a decision. Guided by their communal concerns, females may consult a sales clerk as an additional source of information, in order to ensure that the gift selected will be liked by the recipient. Average female shopper On the whole, it appears that the average female shopper is, compared to males, more comprehensive in her acquisition of in-store information, perhaps due to females' greater shopping skills (gender socialization processes), or perhaps because women place a greater importance on the task, and/or because women, compared to men, are guided by communal concerns. The average female shopper appears to be a motivated giver, searching comprehensively for information, especially if under a strict budget, considering a costly gift, or looking for a good bargain. Among the group, married women spent less time searching (probably because they had more people to buy gifts for, and thus were pressured for time), while highly educated women were more likely to consult a salesclerk prior to making a final purchase decision. Additionally, English-speaking females were more likely to undertake a general information search than French-speaking females. Unlike the results for males, the key set of determinants for all three sources of information for females is largely the situational variables. On the whole, the results of our study provide strong evidence for our hypothesis compared to males, females comprehensively attend to, and acquire in-store information to a greater degree. Discussion One weakness inherent in our study is the mall intercept portion of the subject pool, which represents a convenience sample. Combined with the randomized door-to-door survey administration, however, overall the sample population should be valid for the purposes of this study. It may be possible that the use of recall data to construct the antecedents of gift information search behavior is somewhat limited in terms of its reliability. Future research may benefit by employing a longitudinal methodology in order to better understand the relationships between gender and information search in the context of gift purchasing. A broader range of product categories should also be considered in future studies on gift information search processes, as gender differences are likely to be more prominent depending on the product type (for example, value-expressive gifts versus functional gifts). For the purposes of our study, the choice of a clothing gift for analysis was made not only to reflect its popularity as a gift, but also because clothing (conveying information about sex, age, status, and personality) may be one of the most appropriate ways for a giver to communicate his/her perception of both the recipient and the donor/recipient relationship (Sproles, 1979). Observed gender differences The observed gender differences in shopping behavior could partly be attributable to women's working status that is, whether they worked or not. In order to explore this possible alternate explanation, a post hoc analysis comparing working and non-working females was performed. Concerning the amount spent on the particular clothing gift, a two-tailed t-test (no a priori directional difference was expected) yielded that working women spent more (average $88.00) than non-working women (average $67.54), but this difference was only marginally significant (p = 0.081). This finding may be due to the greater income of working wives. However, a chi-square test (2 = 8.19, 5df., p = 0.146) revealed no significant difference between


working and non-working women on the overall amount spent on Christmas gifts that season. Because working women are presumably under greater time pressure than their non-working counterparts, we were interested in determining whether, due to this time pressure, they would delay the beginning of their Christmas shopping (i.e. behave more like men in this respect). Interestingly, a Chi-square test (2 = 3.21, 3df., p = 0.361) did not reveal significant differences. Both working and non-working females generally started their Christmas shopping at similar times. Gender-role attitudes Some researchers have questioned the validity of using biological sex as a predictor variable in explaining gender differences. Fischer and Arnold's (1994) study concluded that sex, gender identity, and gender-role attitudes are separate constructs. In an earlier study (1990) they determined that men who hold egalitarian gender-role attitudes were more involved in the task (in that they bought a greater number of gifts for more recipients and/or spent more time shopping per recipient) than either traditional men or equallyegalitarian women. This latter finding is consistent with earlier research which states that to a large extent, gender-role attitudes are a greater determinant of shopping patterns than the basic differentiating characteristic of gender (Fischer and Arnold, 1990, 1994; Schaninger et al., 1982). Bem's (1981, 1985) gender schema theory postulates that ``sex-typed individuals tend to encode and organize incoming information in terms of a gender schema, using the traditional bipolar masculinity/femininity dimension as the organizing principle'' (Schmitt et al., 1988, p. 122). However non-sex-typed individuals, whenever feasible, employ other, non-gender-related dimensions to organize information and are therefore less likely than sex-typed individuals to engage in gender-schematic processing (Schmitt et al., 1988). Future research might improve on our findings by measuring both gender identity (e.g. Bem's Sex Role Inventory) and gender-role attitudes, in addition to sex differences. Evidence is emerging that guilt is a motivator of consumer behavior in purchasing situations (see Burnett and Lunsford, 1994, for a review). It is easy to imagine how guilt could influence the behavior of parents who work away from home: they may buy extra or special purchases for their children in order to compensate for the time they spent away. While our study did not specifically measure guilt as a possible determinant of in-store search behavior, it would be interesting to see whether males' and working wives' information search processes are more affected by guilt than stay-at-home mothers. The results of a study conducted by Garner and Wagner (1991) determined that the probability of giving and the value of annual expenditures for gifts given outside the consumers' household was related to total gift expenditures, family size, life-cycle stage, education, the number of female adults in the household, ethnicity, and finally urbanization. An area for future research would be to consider whether significant information search differences exist between males and females, for gifts given outside the immediate household. Concern about efficiency Because of the increasing time pressure they face, many consumers are becoming more concerned about the efficiency of their shopping patterns. For many shoppers, this is especially true at Christmas. Dellaert et al. (1998) found that the tendency of consumers to combine purchases differs from category to category, and depends in part on the availability of different product categories. In instances of multiple purchase shopping trips, it is rather likely that consumers will employ heuristics to reduce the demands of

Guilt as a motivator


the task. Future research on Christmas gift giving should explore this tendency of multiple purpose shopping, and to assess whether males or females are more likely to combine purchases. Some researchers have identified shopping and information search differences between genders across different ethnic groups (see Jolibert and Fernandez-Moreno, 1983). For example, Miller (1993) found that, more than any other ethnic group, Asian women shopped close to home, and when they found a store or brand they liked, they were the most loyal of any ethnic group, irrespective of the product category. Despite its Christian foundations, Christmas is increasingly becoming an international phenomenon thus research on gender differences among different ethnic groups represents a rich area for future research. Finally, gender differences in gift-shopping for other occasions such as birthdays or rites of passage (e.g. graduation, weddings) represents another area for future research. Critical domains Managerial implications Our study has empirically identified a number of critical domains in the area of gift-giving. Knowledge of search is required by marketers in order to plan both product distribution and communications programs (Newman, 1977, p. 79). Most importantly, our study has shown that significant differences exist between males and females with respect to in-store information acquisition strategies. Our findings also support some of the propositions of the selectivity model, thus providing a basis for its application into consumer shopping behavior. Understanding gender differences is important so that retailers and advertisers can better target consumers during the critical Christmas season. A key implication for retailers concerns the amount and types of information that should be made available to consumers. Our study clearly determined that woman often base their purchasing decisions on a comprehensive review of available in-store information. Therefore, it is plausible to suggest that females may prefer to patronize stores that offer sufficient in-store information (including a wide variety of alternatives, product signage, and point-of-purchase displays) so as to enhance the probability of making a sound purchase decision. On the other hand, since males generally consider less sources of information, they may prefer to visit stores that have knowledgeable salespeople readily available as a quick source of advice. Perhaps store salesclerks should be encouraged to approach male customers soon after they enter the store, but allow female consumers the time to consider alternatives on their own before approaching them to offer assistance. Gender-neutral roles Conclusions As stated by Darley and Smith (1995), the biological differences between the sexes will continue to persist, but socialization differences may diminish as gender-neutral roles continue to develop. The increasing numbers of employed women, for example, may eventually reduce or eliminate some of these gender differences in shopping behavior (Roberts and Wortzel, 1979). In fact, the emerging literature on working wives (e.g. Douglas, 1976a, 1976b; Schaninger and Allen, 1980; Strober and Weinberg, 1977), suggests that, compared to their non-working counterparts, wives who work may engage in less information search, spend less time shopping, and visit fewer stores in other words, follow shopping patterns similar to those exhibited by males. The results of our study, however, did not provide support for this theory


Overall, since aspects of information search for gift purchases are likely different from those for products purchased for self-use, considerably more research is required in order to help guide marketing strategies for both retailers and manufacturers.
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Appendix 1

Description Item Traditional Christmas lover I love the Christmas season I look forward to Christmas every year Christmas is my favorite time of the year I am strongly attached to all the Christmas traditions When it comes to Christmas, I follow all the traditional customs of the season I love to Christmas shop It is important to get into the Christmas spirit by participating in the season's traditional activities Christmas shopping is one of my least favorite activities (reversed) I often try new brands before my friends and neighbors do People come to me more often than I go to them for information on brands I sometimes influence what my friends buy When I see a new brand on the shelf, I often buy it I like to try new and different things My friends and/or neighbors often come to me for advice Leader I think I possess more self-confidence than most people I like to be considered a leader I am more independent than most people In general, I shop a lot for ``specials'' or discount I am willing to spend more time shopping in order to find bargains A person can save a lot of money by shopping around for bargains Prior to shopping, I check all the newspapers and magazines for gift ideas and prices

Factor loading 0.8866 0.8794 0.8448 0.8297

Cronbach's alpha male/female 0.9230/0.9067

0.7621 0.7454

0.6662 0.6356



0.6836 0.6588 0.6401 0.5994 0.5361 0.5180


0.8274 0.7505 0.7124

Value seeker


0.8580 0.8054 0.6409


Name-brand Generics are often as good as buyer advertised brands (reversed) Generic products provide good value for what I pay (reversed) Generics are not much different from name brands except for the packaging (reversed)


0.8427 0.8093



Table AI. Factors for personal characteristics


Description Item Motivated giver I watch carefully the people I am buying gifts for, to see what they would really like I conduct a lot of research about what the person would enjoy before I go shopping at Christmas it is important to get gifts that people will enjoy I like to put a lot of thought into the gifts I buy I usually have one or more outfits that are of the latest style When I must choose between dressing for fashion or comfort, I choose the former An important part of my life and activities is dressing smartly I often give Christmas gifts that help to shape the recipient's personality I often give Christmas gifts to people in order to reinforce some aspects of their identity

Factor loading 0.7159

Cronbach's alpha male/female 0.5798/0.6998



0.5462 0.7553 0.7013

Fashion conscious


0.6998 0.7481/0.6448

Identity shaper

0.8565 0.7459

Table AI.
Appendix 2



Factor loading Cronbach's alpha male/female 0.7361/0.7602 0.7691 0.7569 0.6999 0.6842 0.6050 0.4991 0.7620/0.6999

Strict budget

I had a definite budget in mind before shopping for this clothing gift Money was no object for this particular clothing gift (reversed) Price is the last I consider when I am buying a gift (reversed) I was reluctant to exceed my budget for this gift If an item is too expensive, I will not buy it as a gift I always stick to my budget when buying gifts for others I would feel really bad if I bought someone a gift that they did not like I often worry about what can happen if I buy a Christmas gift for someone and they do not like it I will not like the consequences if the recipient does not like the clothing gift

Risky gift

0.8365 0.8191 0.6547


Table AII. Factors for situational variables



Item It is very important that I get just the right gift for this recipient I often feel that I run a high risk of buying someone a Christmas gift they will not like

Factor loading Cronbach's alpha male/female 0.5337 0.4128 0.8582 0.8488 0.7615 0.8357 0.8113 0.8064 0.7947 0.7643 0.7432 0.7705 0.7054 0.9277 0.8883 0.8619/0.7990 0.8520/0.8706 0.7801/0.6888 0.7925/0.7658

Time pressure

When I am Christmas shopping, I am always pressed for time I always feel rushed while Christmas shopping There is never enough time to get all of the Christmas shopping done The clothing gift was very expensive The budget for this gift of clothing was higher than I usually set for other gifts The cost of the actual gift exceeded my budget for it


Costly gift

Pre-determined I had everything decided about the gift selection garment before I got to the store I knew exactly what to buy for this recipient I had no idea what I was going to get as a gift for this person before I started shopping (reversed) Difficult recipient It is especially risky to buy gifts for this recipient This recipient if easy to buy gifts for (reversed) The recipient gave me a list to choose from I bought this item from a list given to me by the recipient While I was shopping in the store, I consulted with a friend in choosing the clothing gift I was shopping with someone else who helped me in choosing this clothing gift


Shopping list

Helpful companion

0.9061 0.8976 0.7225 0.6779 0.5499

Availability It was very easy to shop around and of information compare other similar clothing items There were many brands to choose from once I had decided what to buy for this recipient There was a large selection of gifts I could have bought for this recipient Familiarity I am not very familiar with this type of clothing (reversed) I have bought this type of clothing often in the past



0.8155 0.6177

Table AII.

Appendix 3

Description Item General I looked at all the items in the display information area where I bought the gift search I walked around the store looking at the display of all the merchandise I checked all the prices very carefully I spent a lot of time comparing the brands or clothing items in the store I read all the signs around the display area Specific I very carefully read the information manufacturer's label search I very carefully examined the packaging information I tried to get as much information as possible in the store about this clothing item Sales clerk I received a lot of help from the salesclerk The salesclerks in the store were readily available if I needed any help

Factor loading

Cronbach's alpha male/female 0.8083/0.8278

0.8344 0.7999 0.7730 0.7044 0.5933 0.8941 0.8352 0.5957 0.8582 0.7745 0.7461/0.7808


Table AIII. Factors for in-store information search report