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Sunday, November 07, 2004

Catering to "Security Moms"

    Posted by Adam Crouch

One of the big stories throughout the election campaign was the rise of "security moms" -- women who are very concerned about terrorism, and who were drawn to the candidate they felt would keep them and their families safe. Many were skeptical about their existence, but it looks like they were a reality. Bush's gains between 2000 and 2004 can mostly be attributed to women -- Bush gained 5 points among women (43% in 2000, 48% in 2004), while he only gained 2 points among men (53% in 2000, 55% in 2004). That's a 12% lift among women, compared to a 4% lift among men.

The insight that women are concerned about safety and security is not exactly revolutionary, but it's something that is all too often ignored, not only in politics, but also in business.

A new book from the Harvard Business School Press, Mass Affluence: Seven New Rules of Marketing to Today's Consumer, discusses the success of "lifestyle center" malls in affluent communities (excerpted at HBS Working Knowledge):
What is distinctive about the lifestyle center's approach to retailing? McEwen explains that while lifestyle centers can vary a bit, they share some common characteristics, including open-air shopping, a mix of upscale national chains and specialty stores, and features designed for the needs of a busy lifestyle, such as convenient access to each store directly from the parking lot. Aesthetically, lifestyle centers are a far cry from the walled retail fortresses often found in suburban hubs. They feature a Main Street-style look with distinctive architecture and extensive landscaping. To provide a more manageable scale, lifestyle centers are also less than half the size of regional malls -- often between two hundred thousand and five hundred thousand square feet. This judicious choice of size helps them to fit right into the same affluent communities that often reject larger-scale developments.

The real key to their success, however, is their ability to solve a huge problem for the female shopper:
According to McEwen, "safety is a critical success factor for affluent retail locations. Focus groups and customer intercept studies reveal that a full 71 percent of lifestyle center shoppers are women, and that they are more comfortable when they have a short, direct line of sight between their car and the store they are visiting. At malls, they perceive that there is a lot of crime, a fear which is not helped by the groups of people hanging around and a general discomfort with parking garages."

This really is a big issue, yet it's been under the radar for a while. If people don't feel safe going to and from their car, they won't shop there very often, if at all. Parking garages are a particularly intractable problem. No matter how much lighting you add, they're still going to feel dodgy at night.

Over the past two years or so, I've noticed a growing trend among new upscale malls -- free valet parking. It's very cheap to provide, and it works wonders for this problem. A brilliant idea. Not only does it eliminate the safety problems of parking garages, but there's a big convenience benefit. If someone has done a lot of shopping, they don't have to lug it all the way back to their car. It also adds class, and is nice for the upscale restaurants in the mall.

For what other types of businesses is there an opportunity to make female customers feel more safe and comfortable?

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