Modern men take pride in being skilled Christmas shoppers – compared to their parents, who believed present buying was a ‘woman’s job’

Posted 20th December 2019
  • A poll of 2,000 men found 73 per cent of 1970s husbands left the task of Christmas shopping solely to their wives 
  • More than a third of men today think male shopping habits have been affected by the rise of female financial independence and prosperity 
  • 62 per cent of men believe they are good Christmas shoppers who put thought and effort into Christmas shopping for their partner, with only 21 per cent of their gifts being returned 
  • The top male persona revealed is ‘The Listener’ – over a third of men feel organised, take the hints and know exactly what to buy. Only 16% of men class themselves as a ‘Last Minute Shopper’, turning the man-dash on its head 
  • Perfume and jewellery are the most popular presents – only 12% of men today buy domestic products for Christmas gifts compared to a third in the 70s and 80s 

A recent poll commissioned by centre:mk, one of the UK’s top 10 shopping centres, found – unsurprisingly – that in the 1970s, Christmas shopping was largely a female job with 73 per cent of husbands leaving the task of Christmas shopping to their wives. Generations later, it seems that men’s attitudes towards Christmas shopping have really moved on with 56 per cent of respondents (2,000 UK men 18+) spending more time and putting more effort into Christmas shopping today compared to previous generations. 

This ‘male-volution’ is to the benefit of partners in more ways than one – over half of men say they spend the most time shopping for their other half for Christmas over anyone else. More than two fifths of those polled also spend the most money on their significant other, splurging an average of £137. 

More than a third of men think this change in men’s shopping habits has been affected by the rise of female financial independence and prosperity, due to the rise of women in the workplace over the last 40 years. 

As part of this research, centre:mk (, on the year of its 40th birthday, has collaborated with men’s fashion expert and author, Josh Sims, on an article exploring this change in the male attitude to Christmas shopping and why this may have happened. 

Josh Sims said, “Four decades ago, attitudes to male gifting were very different to today. Women were still typically considered home-makers rather than professionals – their Christmas gift was an indicator of the man’s status as the breadwinner. Employment for women over the second half of the 1980s then rose at the fastest rate than at any time in the last 40 years which changed things. The increased financial independence among women means their partners are free to buy what they want for themselves regardless.” 

Perfume and jewellery were revealed as the most popular modern-day items gifted from men to their partner. In this way, gift-giving in 2019 aligns with 1970s trends, where perfume and jewellery were also popular, suggesting the gifts women hope to receive has not changed massively. Interestingly, there was more disparity between the percentage of women receiving domestic items as Christmas gifts. Between 1971 and 1989, one in every three items gifted to women from their partners fell into this category, with prime examples being ironing boards, washing machines and kitchen gadgets. In 2019, however, such items make up only 12 per cent of favoured women’s presents, meaning less women should expect to unwrap an ironing board on Christmas Day this year. 

35 per cent of men say they want to impress their partner more than men did in previous generations, hence the survey also revealed that over a third of men spend more on Christmas gifts now than over the years. 

Of course there will always be those few grand gesturers around too with some men planning on buying their partners a new car or a holiday abroad. 8% of men class themselves as a ‘Big Spender’ – impressing their loved one with expensive presents. 

62 per cent of men have pure confidence in themselves believing they are good at Christmas shopping, with only 21 per cent of their gifts being returned. Whether women would view this in the same way is another story! 74 per cent of men enjoy Christmas shopping with over a quarter feeling excited about the prospect of gift buying, while a further 18 per cent said that shopping for their loved ones made them feel ‘content’. With men saying that their gifts are rarely returned, women are clearly enjoying the Christmas presents they receive. 

Great for the women of today, 57 per cent of men still put the same amount of time and effort into Christmas shopping for their partner as when they first met. The few that have stopped putting in the effort or stopped buying presents altogether have done so because they agreed to save money and buy less (42 per cent) or because they spend more time and effort on their children/grandchildren (30 per cent). 

The survey also revealed that the top male persona is ‘The Listener’. Over a third of men feel organised, take the hints and know exactly what to buy. Only 16 per cent of men class themselves as a ‘Last Minute Shopper’, turning the ‘man-dash’ on its head. 51 per cent of men say they research their gifts online before shopping in store – a new style of shopping compared to 40 years ago. Men take time to research what they are going to buy, reinforcing ‘The Listener’ persona. 

Kim Priest, Head of Marketing at centre:mk continued, “We are seeing a move away from the ‘Last Minute Shoppers’ – men who traditionally leave it to the last minute then run into the centre on Christmas Eve. There will always be some man-dashers but it’s fantastic to see that men’s attitudes today have shifted with over a third of men referring to themselves as ‘The Listener’ – they feel organised, take the hints and know exactly what to buy. How times have changed!” 

According to Josh Sims, here are the main categories male gifters fall into: 

THE LISTENER: I’ve read the runes; I’ve taken the hints; I’ve made a list. Ok so there may be no big reveal on the day – half of men buy their partners whatever it is they’ve been asked to buy. But the other half claim to give a surprise gift instead. (36 per cent) 

THE FRUGAL SHOPPER: The times are tight. Or he is. Either way, for 18% of men Christmas is about keeping the money wrapped up in the bank and not under the tree. (18 per cent) 

THE LAST MINUTE SHOPPER: Has he been planning for months, only at the last minute choosing to execute his plan? Or has he not realised Christmas comes the same time every year? Some 16% of men leave their shopping to the week before the festive day. (16 per cent) 

THE BIG SPENDER: I’m Mr. Big and I splash it large. It may not be on something you actually want but never mind that. I’m one of the 8% of men who like to impress with an expensive gift: a tablet, a phone… In fact, 4% of men spend over £400 on their partner’s present, well over double the £136 average. (8 per cent) 

KING OF CASH: Exciting! What could that slim, envelope-shaped gift under the tree be? Oh, it’s an envelope – with cash in it. Playing it safe, very safe, 7% of men give their partners some of the old folding for the festive season. (7 per cent) 

MR. ME: We live together, right? So what I buy for you could be, well, something for me. Some 4% of men play a fast one and buy a gift they actually want themselves. Well, why waste all that time at the returns desk? (4 per cent) 

To view the article by Josh Sims, please visit: