An evolutionary explanation for shopping behavior

Gerard Prendergast (Department of Marketing, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong)
Choi Ching Lam (Hong Kong Employment Development Service, Hong Kong)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Publication date: 21 June 2013



The purpose of this study is to describe the shopping experiences of males and females. The central research question is: what does shopping mean for males and females? The sub‐question related to this central research question is: what are the differences in male and female experiences of shopping?


Using a phenomenological method, a study was conducted of the shopping experiences of males and females. This involved in‐depth interviews, an analysis of significant statements, and generation of core themes.


The analysis revealed six core themes that highlight the differences in how males and females experience shopping. Categorizing these six themes into textural and structural descriptions of the phenomenon culminates in an essence that depicts shopping as being a pleasurable experience for females but not so pleasurable for males. Through an inductive process, the authors argue that these findings are most suitably explained within an evolutionary psychology framework.

Research limitations/implications

First, the sample consists solely of Hong Kong shoppers. Second, although every effort was made to validate the findings, with an interpretivist study of this nature, the interpretations can be challenged.

Practical implications

Based on the evolutionary instincts of consumers, retailing tactics can be developed to cater for the needs of males, females, and couples.


While many quantitative studies have been conducted of the shopping behavior of males and females, none have deeply probed the shopping experiences using a qualitative line of inquiry. By seeking to discover the essence of the experience of male and female shoppers, this phenomenological research fills the gap in the existing literature.



Prendergast, G. and Ching Lam, C. (2013), "An evolutionary explanation for shopping behavior", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 366-370.

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