"I am woman hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore" -- Helen Reddy
The 1972 lyrics are classic. Putting aside any feminist overtones, when it comes to over three quarters of today's grocery shoppers -- all women -- we must ask how well are they being served and recognized by today's supermarket operators? As we know too well, food retailing has been and still is a highly male-dominated business even though there are efforts to bring more women into the upper-management fold. Given this, can grocery retailers really relate to their core customer base, especially when it comes to their health and well-being?
Here are some things to consider from a report published last year by the American Marketing Association's Marketing Health Services unit.
Men and women are different. Women get sicker than men, but men die sooner. Women are proactive when it comes to taking care of themselves and their families. In terms of formal health care, they use more health services than men -- the average number of annual physician visits for females in 1998 was 1.4 times higher for women than men. Women tend to be more conscious of proper diet and wellness and they are active when it comes to preventive health care. They are driving consumption of over-the-counter products, and alternative therapies. Women view health and health care differently from men. They crave health care information for themselves and their families.
The emergence of the baby-boom generation as health care consumers will have a huge impact on women's health and future marketing activities.
These women, age 37 to 54, are ending their childbearing years and will enter the phase of needing broader health services for older adults.
It's the graying of America and as the population ages health care in general will become more female dominated with more than 6 million women in the U.S. population. The senior age group, increasingly female, is the fastest growing consumer segment.
Jim Wisner, president, MarketHealth, Libertyville, Ill., who is conducting a women's wellness study for the General Merchandise Distributors Council as part of its Educational Foundation project, noted "lifestage and threshold issues" that will impact women's health.
He pointed to the peri-menopause state as being critically important.
"Most women, around age 42 to 58, will spend six to 10 years of life going through this period. In the next two years, the peri-menopause group will be exactly centered over the aging boomers. This will reenergize women to take proactive action in doing something about their lives (in terms of health)."
Through the study's findings, which will be released at the HBC Marketing Conference, Palm Desert, Calif., in September, Wisner believes food retailers will gain insight into how they can take a proactive role in helping to satisfy women's changing needs for health and wellness during their food shopping experience.
"It's recognizing women as separate from the general market," said Roy White, vice president of education for the GMDC.
To reach out to women through whole health, however, retailers will have to put aside any gender bias or perceptions, and work to really understand and be sensitive to women and their future health needs.
But if successful, food retailers, whose business spans more health-related categories than any other retail format, will reap huge rewards.