(This is the first of three FOREVER TRENDS covering women, the gay community and baby boomers.)

 

First published: August 2007 | Women. The Mega Niche. The under-served market of all markets. And so on. Just consider the fact that women, who comprise just over 50% of the US population, make over 80% of the consumer purchasing decisions (and in case you're wondering, consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of US GNP). Consulting firm A.T. Kearney estimates that women determine 80 percent of consumption, purchase 60 percent of all cars and own 40 percent of all stocks. No wonder some companies have FEMALE FEVER these days. Oh, and there are more numbers and insights galore on Trendsight, Rethink Pink, Marketing To Women Online and BlogHer. But hey, we were going to focus on examples, so here goes:

 

DIY | Barbara Kavovit (a.k.a. Barbara K) is a former head of a major New York City construction firm. Her business in her own words: "do-it-yourself home repair and home improvement tool kits take away the 'fear factor' and empower women with clear and simple day to day household solutions." Having made quite a splash over the last few years, Barbara is expanding: there's now a roadside safety kit for women, plus 24/7 road assistance.

The competition is alive and kicking too: Tomboy Tools sells "fashionable matching construction apparel." Tomboy Tools are for sale individually, in tool combos and in specialty kits for projects such as tiling, drywalling, plumbing and woodworking. At home tool parties, guests see products and basic home improvement repairs in action and learn simple and cost-efficient techniques. Selling online and Tupperware-style, tool parties in the US are held by over 900 consultants, while Tomboy Tools parties also take place in Canada and the UK. The company is planning to expand to Australia and NZ.

For women on the go, there's Miss A Kit, also known as the Miss Army Knife. The knife—available in a wide variety of colours—sells for USD 19.95 and comes with a flashlight, keychain, needle and thread, tweezers, perfume bottle, mirror and pill box. Not only is this market still growing fast in the US, it is also wide-open in the rest of the world. Even better, this IS the kind of company that will get snapped up by an established DIY giant. Time to get hands-on.

 

 



And where there are tools, there are courses: German hardware store Hornbach is offering Women at Work tiling courses, while in the US, Home Depot's Clinics Do-It-Herself program is still going strong. Last but not least, Design Basics offers woman-centric home plans for builders. As they point out on their site: “There are four primary filters through which women evaluate designs: how the home entertains; how the home helps her de-stress; the flexibility of the home's design; and the home's ability to address her storage needs."

 

 

Cars, motorcycles & scooters | Cars designed to appeal to women are nothing new. Cars designed by women however, are still a novelty. Which is why it's such a pity that Volvo's YCC (Your Concept Car—“the first car designed and developed almost exclusively by women”) remains just that: a concept car. Leaving a nice market opportunity to the likes of Toyota or some up and coming Chinese automotive brand.

 

Meanwhile, Street Diamond Motorcycles are taking to the streets. Their bikes are designed to address the most common complaints that have been expressed by women riders for years: motorcycles are too heavy, too high, too wide and women can't reach the ground comfortably. Wicked Women Choppers goes after the same target audience, while New Zealand based Towanda is more of an intermediary: a motorcycle tours provider for women by women. The industry's icon, Harley Davidson, runs a website dedicated to female bikers, but no word yet on an actual women-only Harley.

 

 

For women and girls looking for a lighter two-wheel ride, Hero Honda India introduced a Pleasure scooter and Just4her sales points last fall, opening 22 dedicated Just4her stores across 20 cities (source: Rediff). Apart from having an all-women sales staff—the company is working on creating all-women teams of mechanics as well—the stores' ambience and scooter's design adheres to one strict rule: appeal to women. There's even a mirror in front of the scooter, pandering to the feminine habit of checking how a potential purchase looks—whether it's a scarf, a shopping bag, or in this case, a scooter. The company also introduced the Lady Rider Club, offering special benefits that include milestone rewards, personal accident insurance and special events for members. So far, the Pleasure has notched up sales of over 100,000 units.

 

 

Oh, and let's not forget about automotive insurance: UK-based Sheilas' Wheels, a division of esure, launched in October 2005 to provide competitive quotes for women. Sheilas' Wheels designed a policy for women, with features such as additional coverage for handbags and their contents up to GBP 300 if stolen or damaged while in the car, a 24-hour confidential counselling line for policyholders and the option to add other important services such as legal protection. Sheilas' Wheels is currently taking on new customers at a rate of over 2,000 a week, beating its own growth targets for this stage by 60%. Like most of the other ideas in this briefing, the global market for services like this remains wide-open.

 

 

Last male bastion in the automotive world: the repair shop. Expect female-friendly versions to multiply. To get started, check out Detroit-based Motor City Sales and Service and FrauenAUTOwerkstatt in Salzburg.

 

 

Taxis | Being chauffeured around town should be as much fun as owning a car. Unfortunately, that isn't always the case. In London alone, 10 women are attacked each month after getting into an unlicensed mini-cab. No wonder that many women feel safer taking a taxi driven by a woman. Pink Ladies spotted a business opportunity, and created the UK's first women-only private car hire franchise. The Pink Ladies drive Renault Kangoos that are pink inside and out, making them highly visible. Passengers sign up as members, and fares are either pre-paid, paid by credit card or with a 'pink account', which is convenient for members and safe for drivers. Booking is done over the phone, and a text message is sent to the customer to let her know the vehicle is approaching, which means she doesn't have to wait outside. Drivers are trained in self-defense and will wait outside a customer's home after a drop-off to ensure she gets in safely.

The phenomenon is spreading globally: there's recently launched Forsche in Bombay, whose taxis include conveniences like wet wipes and perfumed talcum powder to freshen up on the way to a work meeting, nail polish remover and nail clippers and women's magazines. Nice detail: Forsche's female founder is former amateur rally driver Revathi Roy. Expansion to Pune, and starting a driving school for women is next on her agenda (no website yet, unfortunately). In Moscow, Pink Taxi and Ladies Red Taxi are vying for female business. Still leaves a lot of cities to bring this service to!

 

 

Beer and wine | Liqueur-style beverages aimed at women have been around for ages, but beer and wine makers are now actively pursuing the female palate, too. There's Karmi, a regional brand produced by the Polish division of Carlsberg. Karmi is a dark beer that has been around for a while, characterized by its sweet caramel flavour that wasn't aimed at a specific gender. Categorized as a near-beer for its low alcohol content (0.1%), the drink has been revamped and is now being targeted to women. Besides pretty new packaging, Karmi has also introduced three new flavours: Poema di Caffé (coffee), Selua (pineapple/piña colada) and Lamai (guava, dragonfruit and mint).

 

 

In Holland and Belgium, three major players have recently introduced rosé beers aimed at women. Heineken's Wieckse Rosé, Hoegaarden Rosée and Gulpener Rosé are sweet, low-alcohol beers with fruit flavours and colours. This vets them against Dutch Sophie & Sophie, who peddle their wine refresher for women as "a low-calories and low-alcohol drink made of rosé wines from Mediterranean Spain."

 

 

German brewer Karlsberg is also convinced that it can get more women to drink beer, though its Karla beer comes with a different twist: health benefits. Which has to do with the fact that in Germany, many women view beer as unhealthy, fattening or unsophisticated. So Karla, a beer for women, is marketed as improving health and well-being. The mixed drink comes in three varieties: Balance, Well Be and Acti-Fit. All are low in alcohol content (1%) and are blends of beer and fruit juices. Emphasis on health prompted an unusual distribution channel: Karla is sold through pharmacists.

 

 

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Sports | We know, there are plenty of dedicated stores for athletic wear for women these days. However, as Nike Women is showing with its constant expansion and initiatives, there's also a healthy appetite for ever-more-sophisticated brands and retail outlets. Besides Nike Women, check out Sporteve, Paiva, South African Femme Sportif, Outdoor Divas (tagline: "Women are not small men"), and Patagonia Women's Clothing and Gear. Feels like a distribution or franchise deal waiting to happen for eager female entrepreneurs?

 

 

Buzz | Women in the United States can now sign up to test-drive new products in exchange for their honest opinions and reviews at SheSpeaks. Here's how it works: when users sign up, they complete a questionnaire about their interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes. SheSpeaks selects an appropriate product match, which the members receive in two to three weeks. Products are theirs to keep, and to try out in their own homes and as part of their everyday lives. In exchange, members provide their candid feedback online on the SheSpeaks website. Discussion boards allow testers to exchange views and opinions with other women who have tested the same products. After the review process, users can get the scoop on how their reviews may have impacted a product before it goes to market, which creates a nice feedback loop. Over 30,000 women from across the country have already signed up.

Procter & Gamble's Vocalpoint has a similar set up, but obviously focuses on P&G products ("for moms") only. According to BusinessWeek, Vocalpoint had more than 600,000 members in 2006. Time to partner with these folks?

 

 

Food and non-alcoholic beverages | Every innovation manager worth her/his salt knows that if you're really stuck for good ideas, you can always introduce a new food item, snack or beverage aimed at kids, boomers, students, office workers or, yes, women. As USA Today recently pointed out, the number of food innovations targeted at women is in the hundreds per year, and that's just in the US.

If you need more inspiration from this field, then sample Republic of Tea's Nutritional Iced Tea for Women, French Meadow Bakery Woman's Bread and Woman's Tortillas and recently resurrected Tab Energy.

And let's not forget functional foods and cosmeceuticals. Four "functional beverages" to get you going:

 

Danone Essensis, recently launched in a number of European countries, is a drink made from fermented milk and fruit, with Omega 6, green tea extract and vitamin E. According to the French company, 'the natural ingredients in Essensis reach the deepest skin layers through the circulation system. Essensis makes sure that the cells in the skin that arrive to the top layers during the skin renewal process are of the best quality. Moreover, apart from improving the quality of the skin, Essensis also reinforces the skin barrier, thus limiting external aggressions whilst ensuring that the skin is adequately hydrated." View one of their commercials here.

In the US, keep an eye on BORBA Drinkable Skin Care. While experts by no means agree on proven benefits of functional foods, consumers are more than willing to give them a try.

Last but not least, Coca-Cola and L'Oreal are to introduce a "nutraceutical drink" called Lumaé next year (no website yet). The drink will include skin-care ingredients, and will be marketed as a beauty brand, not a soft drink.

 


For friskier functionality, check out Swedish Nexcite, a soft drink containing five "love herbs": damiana, ginseng, guarana, mate and schizandra, plus a little caffeine. The mixture allegedly jump-starts the female libido and increases stamina and endurance. In addition to a 200 ml bottle, Nexcite is also available in a 750 ml champagne-style bottle for special occasions.

 

Where to buy these functional foods and other convenience items? Why, in Tokyo convenience store Happily, of course. In Happily's own words, the stores is "of, for and by women." The first outlet, located in Tokyo's Toranomon business district, offers cosmetics and nutritional supplements. Only 20 percent of the products are the same as those at conventional convenience stores owned by the same chain. Clerks are all women, except at night. To enable women—especially so-called office ladies—to have fun and relax while shopping, the store not only offers a wide range of skin-care products and dietary supplements, but also boasts a lavish powder room with a dressing table, full-length mirror and a stool for changing stockings. Aromatic oils are used to scent the air. The Happily store is owned by AM/PM, which last year also launched a chain of outlets that offer DVD rentals and book sales in addition to traditional convenience store fare. One to ponder for the 7/11s and Fresh & Easy's of this world?

Oh, and last AND probably least: South Korean MrPizza sells a low-fat Pizza for Women. Spotted in Seoul, and the jury is still out on whether this is an advertising play or a serious attempt at diversification ;-)

 

 

Travel | We're going to be brief on this one, just like we're going to be brief on boomers and travel, and the gay community and travel: there are too many established travel examples here to really surprise anyone. But if you're in travel and leisure, do check out Wyndham Hotels one more time, as they were the first hotel brand to dedicate an entire program and department to the emerging female business travel market when they launched their Women On Their Way back in 1995. Women, by the way, now account for 50% of all Wyndham travellers. Which makes it worthwhile to focus on things like women-only floors with improved security, female-orientated reading materials and menus, improved beauty and clothing facilities (standing mirrors, powerful hair-dryers, skirt hangers), improved room service menus and discreet check-in procedures.

For further inspiration, there are networking sites like Global Dinner Network and LadiesAway, or take some cues from Lufthansa's Woman's World, a magazine for Lufthansa's female frequent flyers.

 

 

Exclusive access | If access is the new luxury must-have (more on the ACCE$$ trend in our upcoming 2008 Trend Report), then the following initiatives may well succeed:
Italian La Spiaggia in Rosa, a women-only beach with all female staff and on-site services like a hairdresser, make-up artist, fitness classes and a low-calorie menu at the beach restaurant. Or how about an entire women-only town in China? A women-only island in Iran? Women-only metros and trains in Japan, Taiwan, Russia and Egypt? Which of the services that you're currently providing could be made accessible to women only?

 




Banking, investing and insurance
| Financial institutions around the world are finally recognizing that women often have their own needs and goals when it comes to banking, investing and insurance. Women & Co (more on them below) list some useful US-based numbers on their website, arguing why women need different kinds of financial advice:

Average life expectancy for women is 81 years versus 73 years for men (Social Security Administration, 2006).

The average age of widowhood for women is 55 years old (US Census, 2006).

By 2010, women are expected to own half of wealth in the United States (Women in Higher Education, 2007).

Women 65 years or older today have a 44% chance of entering a nursing home at some point in their lives (Genworth Financial, 2006).

The typical woman spends 10 years out of the workforce for care giving, while the typical man spends just two years (Joint Economic Committee, March 2006).

 

A quick list for the financially inclined:

Banks

Mujer Banorte, the first bank to go after the female market in Mexico. Services include insurance for illnesses common to women, including cervical cancer.

Standard Chartered Bank in Kolkata, India, boasts an all-woman bank branch. All staffers at Standard Chartered Bank's Jodhpur Park branch in Kolkata, which opened this May, are women—down to the security guards. And though men won't be driven away, the purpose behind opening the branch is to attract more women customers. The launch of the branch was based on customer feedback which indicated that female customers would prefer a 'non-inhibiting' environment. On the cards are workshops for women on financial planning and investments. Particular efforts are being made to provide information related to investments, and the concept will also be taken to other Indian cities. (Tip of the hat to Times of India and Hindu Business Line.)

Pakistani First Women Bank was founded in 1989 and strives for the economic empowerment of women.

And in Kenya, Equity Bank is about to open women-only bank branches. The initiative will receive a USD 75 million cash injection from the United Nations Development Programme.

 

Investing


Available nationwide in the US, Citigroup's Women & Co is aimed at women under 55 with at least USD 100,000 in investable assets. An annual USD 125 membership fee gives members access to an advisor from Salomon Smith Barney or Citicorp Investment Services, newsletters and seminars, and special rates for mortgages, child care facilities and saving funds.

United Arab Emirates investment firm Forsa is hoping to tap into the largely overlooked market of wealthy GCC women with the launch of investment funds worth AED 250 million (USD 68 million) open to female investors only. Forsa, set up by Dubai World this January, controls an AED 200 million general fund and an AED 50 million real estate fund. Forsa is open to Emirati and expatriate women with a minimum investment of AED 50,000 to one million.

Also, British fund manager Bramdean is also considering introducing its women-only service, Bramdiva, in Dubai. The service is already available in Britain. The fund is led by Nicola Horlick—dubbed the superwoman of the UK's fund management world—who, after Dubai, hopes to expand Bramdiva to Saudi Arabia, targeting super wealthy women.

Dutch ABN Amro just launched Lady Delight, an investment fund for and by, you guessed it, women. Lady Delight invests in three major funds managed by women: Odin Europa, JPMorgan UK Smaller Companies and Morgan Stanley Latin America.


Insurance

South African 1st for Women offers motor vehicle and household insurance for women only. Based on the belief that women are a safer bet because they don't put one another in senseless danger, the company is expanding quickly: there's now a 1st for Women in Australia, too. German women have access to LadyCarOnline (car insurance) and Aspecta's Frauen.invest (life insurance).

The list goes on, proving our point: just get going, if you're not already adding to FEMALE FEVER yourself ;-) Similar opportunities for catering to the gay community and baby boomers can been found on the next pages >>>.

 

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