How Women Shop

February 27, 2013

From the latest edition of Food, Nutrition & Science - a special issue on women in food and farming.

When women shop, convenience trumps all else, according to the 2013 National Grocer’s Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey. The survey, in which respondents were 75.7% female, found that women want well-rounded appeals in their primary supermarket, and are more concerned with ease of use, quality and cleanliness than other hot button items like price or organics.

Women don’t shop only for themselves – they have their entire household in mind – and they are trying to squeeze in a lot with little time to do it in. That means the store needs to be easy and clear to use, with accurate shelf tags (74.6%), clean and neat surroundings (83.7%) and a safe environment outside the store (61.2%).

Women shop for groceries most often at supermarkets (84%), with warehouse stores (4.2%), convenience stores (.4%), and online outlets (.3%) not even coming close in terms of use. And when they shop, they want high quality produce (90%). In fact, this top feature is the only one cited by nine out of 10 chief household shoppers as “very important” in their choice of supermarket. In other words, fruits and vegetables are a gateway item to shoppers, and a very effective means of attracting customers.

High quality meats are important too, for more than seven in 10 consumers (71.4%). High quality seafood ranks as well, but much lower, at 45.5%. A high quality bakery ranks even lower still, at 32.4%, suggesting that women are health conscious in their shopping, and looking for healthy proteins over empty calories. Additionally, women want supermarkets to efficiently present items for sale with plenty of wiggle room in product dating (82.7%), adding shelf life to the top of the priority list.

Local continues to trump organics for shoppers, with people eating locally grown foods more often than organic foods. Nearly three-quarters eat “local” regularly. But don’t write off the importance of organics just yet. Though momentum has indeed slowed – in part because of research released in the latter half of 2012 claiming no major nutritional benefits in organic foods over conventional foods – still half of shoppers (52.3%) eat organics from “once every other week” to “multiple times during the day”. Consumers in the 25 to 39 year old range consume more organics than other age groups (19.4%), as do heavy grocery spenders (17.3%).

Perhaps most telling is the fact that less than a majority of female shoppers (49.1) say money saving specials are “very important” – a trend that continues from 2010 (60%) to 2011 (55%) to 2012 (54.8%). Down 5.7 percentage points from last year, this finding is a sign that while being price-competitive is still important, stores can stand out in many other ways, especially since other priorities, like safety and nutrition, are more desired supermarket features. Along these same lines, just 41.7% say low prices are “very important”.

Getting through the store quickly is important to women, because saving time at the store means they will have more time to spend with their family. So it makes sense that wait time (43.1%) remains the top issue bothering shoppers during the check out experience. Interestingly, though the desire for more self checkouts (17.4%) rank higher than new technologies (blink fast pay technology and walk through RFID, for example, rated 5.2% and 9%, respectively), shoppers are more concerned with expanding systems that are already in place. To improve the check out experience, almost half of shoppers suggest more open lines to decrease wait time (49.5%).

In terms of purchase costs and frequency, 22.1% of families spend more than $136 per week on groceries, up from 21.4% in 2012 and 14% in 2011. More shoppers visit the store once a week (32.4%) or two times a week (31.2%) than three (17.2%) or four (6.6%) times a week. Again, since time saving for women is key, it is preferable for a shopping trip to cover most of the week’s needs, therefore eliminating the time-drain of repeat trips to the store. But the only way this can happen is if the store provides the items female shoppers desire most. Stores that are easy-to-use, clean and offer high quality, fresh food will come out on top.

To purchase a copy of the complete survey, visit