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Study Reveals Men Are Seduced by Red Price Tags

When walking into a department store on a sale day, the abundance of red sale and clearance signs can make it challenging to resist buying fashion favorites, household items or other must-haves.  But who is more susceptible to this color when making purchasing decisions – men or women?

A recent study by four business professors including Dr. Rajneesh Suri, an associate professor of marketing in Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, analyzed the effect these red price tags have on men and women. They found that male consumers perceived greater savings when prices were presented in the color red than when they were presented in black, whereas women consumers weren’t as affected by the red prices. In fact, they were more likely to recall the original price of the item. Simply put, women saw through the marketing ploy more often than men.

Skimming through the Sunday newspapers and noticing the use of color by some retailers is what led Suri and the team to conduct studies on the effects of the color red in presenting prices.

Previous research has demonstrated that subtle changes in the presentation of price influences price perception, but this was the first study to take a look at how a price in red impacts perceived savings. The study, published in the Journal of Retailing, involved three experiments with around 400 people who looked at price labels and advertisements, rating them for the amount of money they would save.

In each case, the men thought they were saving more when the price was in red and believed those products offered savings 85 per cent greater than the black-priced items.

The researchers also found that the effect of red on evaluations by men disappeared when they were forced into conditions that required them to be more skeptical about products. Women, on the other hand, were naturally more inclined toward elaboration, exhibited better memory of price information and greater skepticism of widespread use of red to highlight prices.

In a sense, the research supports what many women already know about their shopping habits.

“Women are thorough shoppers who seem to be impacted less by emotions when it comes to evaluating prices presented in red,” said Suri. “What’s more interesting is that men ‘feel’ good when they are looking at red prices.”

Suri and researchers have already begun initial exploration of other aspects of color and their impact in price presentation but still have lots more to do before drawing any conclusions.

In the meantime, it’s clear that we should all be more discerning regarding price tag color – or risk seeing red at the cash register.

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