Take stores from ho-hum to ho-ho

October 18, 2013

Most consumers will gift-buy in food stores this holiday season, says NRF. Social media will win trips - see our own new data on supermarkets on Twitter.

Supermarkets will need to kick-start their own holiday sales—because seasonal momentum is seriously lacking in 2013.

The Congressional deal to end the government shutdown and avert debt default sets the stage for another political showdown this winter.  So don’t expect consumers to forget about the issue, or how it affects their households’ ability to spend on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Christmas in the interim.

Moreover, Thanksgiving and Chanukah celebrations fall on the same day this year, a rare coincidence that diminishes food sales opportunities in many markets.  And those holidays come late in November, which leaves less time for host households to plan and prepare for Christmas gatherings.

These multiple pressures will affect retailers’ ability to achieve any real growth this holiday season.  Another indicator:  most consumers (51.0%) affirm the economy will impact how they spend, reports the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The Lempert Report therefore urges retailers to structure holiday offers that maximize value and convenience—think food assembly and prepared meals—and to message consumers aggressively on their websites and in social media.  Retailers have to inventively present and cross-merchandise,  and posture loudly and proudly in 2013 to earn share against encroaching competitors in a lackluster market.

Efforts could pay off: 51.1% of consumers say they will seek their best values in gifts and goods at food stores this season, according to the NRF 2013 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey of 6,415 consumers, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.  

Consumers will increasingly rely on the Web and social media to help shape their final purchase decisions. Therefore, The Lempert Report also stresses the importance of ongoing dialogue with consumers through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  The content could be about coupons, flash sales, special discounts and check-in rewards, as well as new foods, entertaining ideas, recipes and nutrition.

Our own examination of supermarkets on Twitter shows a wide range of activity across operators. For example, while Walmart has 391,209 followers, Kroger has 40,544, Safeway has 31,722, Food Lion has 9,736 and Save-A-Lot has 1,775.

Walmart also leads in daily tweets over the past four months, averaging 10.5 a day, while Harris Teeter issues 9.125, Hannaford posts 3.75, and Fred Meyer has 2.125, The Lempert Report data show.