A number of UK supermarkets have been accused of gender bias in their pricing, with women being charged more than men. Following accusations of “sexist pricing” Tesco announced in December 2016 that it was cutting the price of women’s disposable razors to match the price of a similar men’s product. In its defence, Tesco argued that men’s razors are produced in higher quantities and that this brings down the unit costs, and therefore the price it can charge.
In February 2016 Boots also reduced the prices of its female disposable razors to be closer to those of male disposable razors. Boots also cut the price of its female face cream, which was higher than male face cream. Boots claimed it was not discriminating, arguing for example that its face cream prices are based on a range of factors including the formulation of the product, the ingredients, and market comparison.
A study by the Times newspaper in 2016 found that supermarkets were typically charging women nearly 40% more than men for clothes, beauty products, and toys.
The Fawcett Society, which promotes gender equality and women’s rights, argues that this is evidence of sexist pricing and that the bias against women is ingrained in society. It argues that women are “hit twice”; they get paid less and charged more.
However, Nancy Puccinelli, a professor of consumer psychology at Oxford University argues that women tend to be more careful shoppers and therefore the higher prices may be because women see more value in the products. For example, she argues that men see razors as functional whereas women may see the purchase as more to do with self care and is worth paying more for. However, Professor Puccinelli also points to environmental factors, such as the placement of the product in the store, making price comparisons difficult and allowing significant price differences to exist.
The pricing policies of the supermarkets towards women may be an example of price discrimination. You can find more information on price discrimination in Chapter 12 of the book.
- Using price discrimination theory explain why the prices of products aimed at women are often higher than those aimed at men.
- What other reasons might there be for price differences?
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