More Quick Trips from more caring?

Articles
February 14, 2011

More Quick Trips from more caring?

Consumers are pent up. They want to move on already from the economic pressures of the past two-plus years. They yearn for the spending freedoms they once knew. They want food-and-beverage shopping to be more for better times and home-based entertainment, rather than persist as a rigorous, fact-finding, value-seeking exercise every time they venture to the store.

See this and lots more in NGA Supermarket Guru 2011 Consumer Panel Report

Consumers are pent up. They want to move on already from the economic pressures of the past two-plus years. They yearn for the spending freedoms they once knew. They want food-and-beverage shopping to be more for better times and home-based entertainment, rather than persist as a rigorous, fact-finding, value-seeking exercise every time they venture to the store.

If only they could wave their debit cards and make that happen.

If only regional retailers could kick start 2011 with well-executed strategies and themes that snap shoppers out of their current price trance.

Consumer insights from the ongoing annual benchmark research, the 2011 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Report issued this week, will help food chains engage the public for reasons beyond price.

Take 'caring,' for instance, an element explored for the first time in this year's study. Do consumers nationwide feel that their primary supermarket cares about them? The good news is that 89% say yes. The bad news is that much of that caring seems tepid: 55% feel the caring is 'moderate,' while just 34% say 'yes, absolutely.' This study cites the tangible proof adults look for as expressions of caring, and readers can take it from there to show how they feel about the communities they serve.

This isn't about feeling good. It's a linchpin to unshakeable retailer-consumer-shopper relationships. In tough times, people and stores need each other more. Not only now, but in economic recovery, people will reward the stores that stood by them when they were vulnerable. Retailers can build equity by caring today. . Such differentiation will be key to success in 2011, because a functional buying mindset at the store will limit shoppers' willingness to enlarge their baskets. Also, fewer trips and a higher share of Quick Trips already show that households stock-up less and buy what they need when they need it. Just-in-time households are part of America's landscape.

What's next? Will living paycheck to paycheck digress into day-by-day or meal-by-meal food purchasing? Food retailers need to re-think their offers for this possibility because the trend is clearly for homes to carry less inventory. Also significant: the nation's rise in single-person households, which outnumber married couples with kids and often lack storage space for food items.

Households may stock less, but they're cooking more, and they feel pretty good about doing it. Indeed, 69% of America's adults are 'confident in the kitchen,' 55% 'like to experiment, create own recipes,' and 47% consider themselves 'enthusiastic,' this survey shows. For the 41% that are 'novice, tentative, follow simple recipes,' the trade urges them on with helpful websites and easy-to-prepare meal solutions.

This seems in perfect pitch for consumers and supermarkets in 2011, since pressures are ahead this year. Among the causes: food commodity price rises, spurred by global demand, will push up items storewide; inflation risk if the government keeps spending and expanding the money supply; persistent double-digit unemployment among many population segments; flat-as-a-pancake housing prices.

Will this year challenge retailers to keep in tune with fast-changing consumer priorities? Absolutely. Mainstream grocers are squeezed by the stepped-up food efforts of Target, Walmart, dollar stores and clubs, and by innovative, extreme-value food outlets such as Aldi and Trader Joe's. This has Wall Street analysts wagging their fingers at mid-tier supermarket chains that they aren't consumer-centric enough and they've allowed price to dominate today's marketplace.

Rather, retailers that expand their appeals with fresh, distinctive strategies based on new consumer insights will effectively push back against price retailers and notch marketplace wins.