WASHINGTON, DC — October 17, 2001 — Although nearly three-fourths of American households identify a female member as the primary household shopper, a recent Food Marketing Institute (FMI) white paper, What Working Women Want, reveals that women shop differently based on weekly hours worked. The report is based on data derived from FMI’s Trends in the United States: Consumer Attitudes and the Supermarket 2001.

“This report clearly shows that shopping habits and priorities differ between working women and those that work part-time or not at all,” notes Janice Jones, FMI’s director of research. “The amount of money they spend, the types of services they use and the kinds of products they seek vary significantly between the two groups."

The study examined the shopping habits and expectations of full-time, part-time and nonworking women. Among its findings about these shopper segments:

  • Full-time working women - Women who work at least 20 hours weekly express a strong preference for certain services and products, including in-store banking or ATM machines, coffee bars, frequent shopper programs, prepared foods, and ethnic and natural foods. Of those surveyed, 91 percent shop at stores where ATM or debit cards are accepted, compared with 79 percent of part-time or nonworking women. These women, who are very concerned with a fast and convenient checkout, spend an average of $94.10 per week with $73.20 being spent at their primary store.

  • Part-time and nonworking women - Women who work less than 20 hours per week are more likely to look for a pharmacy, video rentals, an in-store bakery or a sit-down eating area as additional services. These shoppers, who are especially concerned about customer service and personal attention, spend an average of $87.30 per week with $69.90 being spent at their primary store.

The two groups do show some common tendencies. Both consider high-quality produce, high-quality meats and a clean, neat store to be the top three factors when choosing a primary supermarket. The survey also shows that 91 percent of both groups shop at a primary store that offers private label or store brand products, and both groups regularly purchase these items.

Both shopper segments demonstrate economizing behaviors, although in different ways. Half of the full-time women surveyed participate in a frequent shopper program, compared with only 41 percent of women who work fewer hours or not at all. However, 65 percent of women working part-time are more likely to look in newspapers for grocery specials, versus 56 percent of full-timers.

“These figures show that both groups of women economize, but each has a different savings strategy depending on the time available,” said Jones.

The time required to shop also seems to influence the type of food that full-time working women buy. Forty percent report the regular purchase of prepared foods ready to heat and eat, compared with only 28 percent of women working 20 or fewer hours.

“Full-time, working women may want to serve good food at home but can’t always create an entire meal from scratch,” said Jones. “Partially prepared meals enable them to do so more often.”

Other factors may contribute to the differences between women who work full time and those working fewer hours. Full-time working women tend to be under 50 and have a higher household income. Those who work fewer than 20 hours are often older or they have young children at home.

“Bottom line, everyone wants to provide good meals for their family, but women working full time may need to adopt time-saving strategies to do so,” said Jones.