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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 10:57 GMT
Gadget makers target women
CD being placed in a stereo system (BBC)
Do not mention the sub-woofers
By BBC News Online's Alfred Hermida in Las Vegas

Gadgets are traditionally seen as boys' toys but electronics companies are increasingly becoming aware of the need to appeal to women.

"Retailers ignore women at their own peril," Kim France, editor-in-chief of shopping magazine Lucky, told a seminar on selling to women at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, US.

"The minute I hear a word like 'sub-woofer', you've lost me," she said. "I want as little information as possible to make an intelligence purchase."

US figures show that the numbers of women and men buying electronic products, like handheld computers, are evenly split.

"There are female consumers, but they are not the typical market for consumer electronics," said Sean Wargo, senior analyst at the Consumer Electronics Association.

"There's renewed interest in appealing to the female segment through fashion and style," he said.

Generation gap

This has posed a challenge for manufacturers, which for years have only pursued male wallets.

"It's a generational thing. People born in the 70s grew up with computers, game consoles and the like," said Panasonic's Gene Kelsey.

Girls are more inclined to buy gadgets online because they don't have to deal with the pushy salespeople

DeeDee Gordon, Look-Look
"All of a sudden there's a whole new market place out there, yet companies that were for ages marketing TVs and videos that were predominantly of interest to males don't know how to deal with it," he said.

Companies like Panasonic have found that style is the number one priority for women, whereas men are more concerned with brand and what the thing does.

"A lot of women want permission to buy the cute version of something," said Ms France. "It is something we have seen a lot in the teen market. If something is cool and it's a great colour, you're going to get it."

Girl power

In many homes, it is the children who know all about new technology and teach the parents to use their computers or flashy mobile phones.

"If it has to do with communication, if it has to do with instant messaging, wireless, anything like that, girls know all about it," said DeeDee Gordon of youth market research firm Look-Look.

"Most of the boys know more about video games and MP3s [audio files] and stuff like that."

Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina (AP)
HP boss Carly Fiorina understands technology
There is also a difference when it comes to what the sexes want from a gadget. While men want to know what it can do, women have different priorities.

"The female customer wants to know what the product is going to do for them. How it's going to help their life," said Mr Kelsey.

But there is one big obstacle that often deters women from buying gadgets - the intimidating atmosphere in many electronics stores.

"I can't tell you how many times I have walked in and out of a large electronics store in New York because I can't stand the notion that I'm about to get ripped off, " said Ms France.

Instead, women are turning to the internet, where they can research at their own pace.

"Girls are more inclined to buy gadgets online because they don't have to deal with the pushy salespeople, they don't have to deal with a bunch of technical jargon and they can just find out about things on their own," said Ms Gordon.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | UK
Women catch up on net use
16 Jul 01 | dot life
A gadget is worth a thousand words
13 Feb 01 | Asia-Pacific
Virtual love seduces Japan
10 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
Kenyan women speak out on video
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