Why do women pay more for some consumer goods and services?

Danielle Kurtzleben considers a few hypotheses:

…women develop “relationships” with brands and are more brand-loyal than men. If that’s true, it could explain why women might pay more for a razor that’s priced too high.

And in some cases, there are legitimate differences between men’s and women’s clothing. According to Kebba Gaye, a managing partner at The Press Dry Cleaning and Laundry in Washington DC, high-priced ladies dry cleaning has to do with actual differences in the clothing. Men’s dress shirts tend to be standard in shape and material — often cotton, with two long sleeves, one button-up front, maybe a pocket or two — and one machine can press all of them.

Women’s shirts, on the other hand, are far more varied — sleeveless, rayon, cap-sleeved, buttoned, silk, pullover — and can’t all be handled the same.

“The reason a woman’s shirt is $5 versus $1.85 for men is because of the different types of shirt,” Gaye says. But he says he does make exceptions: “If men wear a polyester like Hawaiian shirt, then they’ll have to pay more, too.”

Her main explanation however is based on the demand side (is there so much market power?):

Of course, there’s an obvious answer here: society expects women to look a certain way. Put into economics terms, there’s a higher return on investment for beauty for women. Beauty products are becoming more popular among men, it’s true, but expensive skin cream is still optional. For women, all those trappings are more necessary.

The full piece is here.


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