Diamonds or a new drill?
Picking the perfect present can be tricky when tastes change
It's the most wonderful time of the year for retailers and it can be a stressful, overwhelming time for shoppers trying to cut through the clutter to find the perfect gift for the him or her in their lives.
Those hims and hers are not all cut from the same cloth -- some appreciate traditional gifts, while others are happiest with gifts that might traditionally appeal to the opposite sex.
Women's wants vary widely
"Women want to feel adored," said Mike Han, president of the Wedding Ring Shop
. "They want to be given a (gift) that means they're special and they're exceptional and you can do that in many ways, but you can do this best by giving them a fine piece of diamond jewelry."
It's not an appliance to get housework done or a tool connected to kitchen duties and it is not something that will be consumed in a matter of days.
"It's a symbol of enduring sentiment," Han said.
"Women in Hawaii love to receive a symbolic gift, a gift that symbolizes a special relationship that is symbolic of family or a relationship between a man and a woman -- and usually the diamond does that."
Despite its name, the store offers more than wedding rings. Diamond earrings start at $300 to $400 and can go as high as $40,000. Pendants start around $400 to $500, "and we have pendants ... ranging in excess of $25,000."
For the hapless husband or baffled boyfriend unsure of how to approach a jewelry purchase, Han has simple advice: "He should have been listening to her and watching her, perhaps her slightest hints. Take into account what she already owns and perhaps even enlist the help of a friend to give him some insight."
"If he's a married guy, he should have been listening to her wishes, or watching her expressions when she sees jewelry on other people, listening to comments when she sees jewelry in a store's window," he said.
The Wedding Ring shop is in temporary quarters in suite 415 of 1221 Kapiolani Blvd. while the stand-alone building that will be its new home is under construction across Pensacola Street.
The hardware store appears elsewhere along the gift shopping spectrum, but it is definitely there to stay.
The hardware store as a male retreat is a thing of the past, said Larry Lanning, marketing director for Hardware Hawaii's three locations.
The customer mix at its Kailua store is about 50-50 men and women, he said.
It's not just men that drool over tools.
"Some of our general contractors are women, many of the carpenters are women, truck drivers are women and nearly all the women we have in the lumber department drive a forklift," he said.
The store's three locations have seen increasing numbers of women buying tools and materials for projects.
"They're saying, 'I'm not going to nag, I'm just going to do it,'" Lanning said. Employees can talk a do-it-yourselfer through the project and its pitfalls.
Hardware Hawaii started capitalizing on its Christmas store potential five years ago by publishing a gift guide.
After all, it carries "power tools and even maybe some home-appliance type things. Not that it's the most romantic type of gift, but if it's what the family needs, she's probably going to be delighted with it," Lanning said.
In addition to typical hardware-store stuff, the store sells tabletop fountains, candles "and lamps and things that aren't typical."
While the store feels "everybody is our customer," its marketing effort is focusing increasingly on the upscale homeowner. They would be more likely to purchase hardwood flooring than would a renter, for example.
However, some things haven't changed.
If the store is promoting paint, "I switch where I put the ad and which radio stations I'm on because I'm really addressing women," he said.
Women are the most likely to choose color, especially for the inside of a house.
"We have a note up in our paint department saying that husbands choosing interior colors must have a written note from their wife," Lanning laughed.
Men are multifaceted
Max Sword, vice president of hotel company Outrigger Enterprises Inc.
, likes going to the tool shop as much as the next guy, "but if I don't get that (as a gift), that's fine," he said.
The "Gifts for Him" pages of the Ace Hardware national Web site have everything from a Stanley electrical power strip in industrial yellow and black starting at $12.79 to a 44,000 BTU Weber propane grill with commercial-grade side burner for $1,099.
It's enough to evoke the inner "Tim 'The Tool Man' Taylor" within all of us.
However, for Sword and growing numbers of manly men like him, a new type of gift that came his way has got him hooked. He goes to the Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa at Ala Moana Center.
"It's something I enjoy and it's not a girlie thing where only women would enjoy it. Men would enjoy it too, going to the spa and getting pampered."
He goes for massages, hair cuts and "they massage your hands and feet and it feels so good. I think men should try that, especially for men -- those that work at physical labor."
It is now commonplace for men to be seen in the heretofore traditionally female turf.
Most have been lured or cajoled in by the women in their lives, but they find they really enjoy it, said Lititia Thomas, site manager.
One military customer marched straight into the spa upon arriving in Honolulu after being stationed in the Marshall Islands, she said. He vowed to return in another month on his next trip to Honolulu.
For $245 Aveda offers "Nurturing for Her" or "Nurturing for Him," packages, but if that's too steep or the man too reticent as a first-time spa-goer, it also offers men's manicures for $35 or pedicures for $55. A one-hour massage with foot bath and use of the shower and steam room sells for $105, Thomas said.
And don't call them beauty products. "Personal care products" including shampoos, shaving creams and a shampoo body bar that can be used "from head to toe" may be your man's gateway drug into the spa world.
Offered "tools or massages, I wouldn't turn down either of them," laughed Sword.
Music to the ears of spas and hardware stores of the world.
Consider the Harley
Women are encroaching on all kinds of previously male-dominated dominions. Consider the Harley-Davidson.
"Last year we had six or seven Harleys bought by spouses for their husbands," said Joe Nicolai, president of Pacific Harley-Davidson Inc.
However, more and more women are becoming HOGs, or members of the Harley Owners Group.
Last time he looked at the numbers, "7 or 8 percent of our total sales were to women," Nicolai said. "There were zero percent 40 years ago."
The all-American Harley-Davidson motorcycle starts at $8,000 "but you can go on up to $21,000 or $22,000 and if you want a full-on custom Harley, that's about $50,000," he said.
Nicolai originated the boutique concept for the bike maker and has three wholly owned boutiques at Ala Moana Center, the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center and in Hilton Hawaiian Village. There are also a handful of franchisees running mini boutiques in Hawaii.
More than two decades ago the only Harley-licensed items were belt buckles, boots, caps and T-shirts, Nicolai said. Now there are 3,000 items, including the aloha wear manufactured by Pacific Harley-Davidson.
"What's really interesting about our boutique concept is that 99 percent of the customers that purchase products from the boutique have never even sat on a motorcycle. They're buying a fashion statement," Nicolai said.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com