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Shopping's a chore nowadays

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — If it weren't obvious to anyone who sees a harried mom burning through the "sale" racks between errands on her lunch break, Carrie McCament will speak the awful truth.

"Shopping just isn't as fun for women anymore," said the managing director of frank about women, a North Carolina consulting firm that specializes in building brand loyalty with female consumers.

"This is more than just a heightened awareness of finding a good deal," she said. "This is an entire breed of shoppers who are accustomed to frequent deep discounts and won't shop without them."

But not fun? Really?

"Their lives are so full and busy that what used to be a Saturday shopping outing with friends has turned into must-have shopping trips," said McCament, a mother of two with another on the way.

The new survey, "Retail Rituals: Women's Changing Attitudes Toward Shopping," was conducted for the firm by researchers at St. Louis University and Louisiana State University. It found that nearly two out of three women have drastically changed their shopping habits over the past two years.

Its findings should be of great interest to retailers and economists because consumer spending is the leading driver of the nation's economy.

The online survey, conducted in June with a total of 753 respondents, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. It was conducted for frank about women's clients, which include TJ Maxx, Oxygen, Eddie Bauer, Stop & Shop and General Motors.

Other consulting firms also are noticing a big change in women's shopping habits.

Marshal Cohen, of NPD Research, a market research company in Port Washington, N.Y., that also polls consumers and advises stores, agreed that shopping has become more drudgery than fun for most women.

"Shopping has become more of a chore," he said. "More and more women work, and they have other things they need to do. Even when a woman is not working outside the home, they have things like carpooling and other distractions beyond shopping."

Unlike a generation ago, he said, shopping has become a self-service endeavor.

"All of the stores now carry more of the same merchandise, so now it's up to you to find the best price for the same item," he said.

In the past, Cohen said, women used to spend two to three hours on a shopping trip. Often it included an appointment with the hairdresser and lunch with friends.

Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing of Stevens, Pa., said the biggest thrill for some women can be finding an item at 75 percent off, or more.

"The pursuit of savings and bargains are part of the shopping experience," she said. "Some shoppers may not even need something but they will buy it for the thrill of getting a discount."

She compared it to the desire men have when they watch a football game.

"When men watch sports, they get excited about the score," she said. "For women, they get excited when they find out how much they saved when they bought a pair of shoes."