Consumer priorities turn: new NGA-SupermarketGuru research

February 06, 2013

Well-rounded store appeals, beyond price, help independents compete.

When the nation’s independent grocers convene in Las Vegas next week, one of the keynote speeches they’ll hear will reveal findings of the 2013 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey.

This annual benchmark report tracks changing sentiments about how people relate to many aspects of food across America—and how they perceive the stores that serve them. The Lempert Report expects highlights of this latest study to motivate retailers to keep improving their performance standards—because shoppers place less emphasis on price now, and it will take multiple appeals to earn traffic, bigger baskets and destination status.

Indeed, low prices don’t even crack the Top 10 list of important store features:  just 41.7% call it “very important.”  This is a big shift from the full-bloom recession years, when 51.0% called low prices “very important” in 2009 and 2010, and 44.0% in 2011.

For shoppers in 2013, the data show, the food-buying experience is more about: 

  • high-quality fruits and vegetables (90.0% “very important”)
  • clean, neat store (83.7%)
  • selling products before “use-by/sell-by” date (82.7%)
  • accurate shelf tags (74.6%)
  • high-quality meats (71.4%)
  • personal safety outside the store (61.2%)
  • items on sale or money-saving specials (49.1%)
  • courteous, friendly employees (48.5%)
  • high-quality seafood department (45.5%)
  • offers locally grown produce and packaged goods (43.8%)
  • store layout that makes it easy to shop (43.4%)

Although deals sit within the Top 10, it is the first time in recent memory that less than half of consumers call them “very important”; this is down from 60.0% in 2010.  This move is good news for independents, which lack the buying clout of larger chains but are often nimbler and able to provide the local feel and foods that many people prefer.

New insights into store switching, the importance of fresh foods and sound nutritional advice, and eating trends are other key parts of this NGA-SG research.  The Lempert Report will detail more of this in follow-up stories next week.