Weighty issue: How can retailers help stressed consumers?

Articles
August 03, 2009

Weighty issue: How can retailers help stressed consumers?

When life gets tough, it seems that Nature adds weight to the problem. Stressed at work? Have trouble paying the bills? Better add another notch to the belt.

When life gets tough, it seems that Nature adds weight to the problem. Stressed at work? Have trouble paying the bills? Better add another notch to the belt.

A 9.2-year-long study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that men gained an average of 1.37 kg/m2 to their body mass indices when they lacked authority to make decisions, learn new skills or do different tasks at work. Over the same period of time, women packed on an average of 1.57 kg/m2 to their body mass indices when they had difficulty in family relationships or felt constrained in their lives.

One constant is that over time, people shop for food mostly in the supermarket. This begs the question: Do food stores have a responsibility to help shoppers keep lean and mean and better able to withstand the life stresses they endure? What could they do? If they’re good at it, will it diminish consumers’ self-loathing of their physical state? Will it lead to better emotional states when in the store? Might that in turn lead to lengthier visits, larger baskets and happier experiences?

What we’re proposing is definitely a feel-good notion. But we at SupermarketGuru.com believe there’s a firm basis for retailers to be bright, pleasant places to shop for healthful choices. Can you look at your stores and honestly say that they meet this standard? Do they come close to the colorful stimulation, friendliness, and good-for-you assortments of Trader Joe’s, for example? How about the super-clean environment of Whole Foods with its bevy of nutritional offerings and tempting prepared foods? Or the uplifting feel of a Wegmans or Gelson’s, for instance?

If your stores are dark and depressive, we think it’s a natural response that people would look to quicken their visits, and might likelier buy fattening foods (for that quick fix spike in spirit). Think of the dimness of so many deep-discount formats through the years that stacked out all kinds of junk foods, simply because trade deals were available on them.

Consumers, we think, are looking for retail ‘friends’ in this recession, local stores they feel have their interests in mind. That goes beyond money—as people calculate where they’ll continue to shop once funds are freer. Retailers ought to pay real attention to the promise and meaning of their marquee brand, and the follow-through of endless details in stores that people regularly size up—and which in turn seems to affect their size as well.