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    Retailers Vulnerable as Consumers Consolidate Shopping, Retail Forward Reports

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Consumers are consolidating their shopping and placing more relative importance on speed and convenience, according to observations gleaned from "American ShopperScape 2006," a consumer shopping database managed by Retail Forward, a global consulting and market research firm based here. The firm's latest findings suggest that retailers that aren't among the top players in their respective channels are increasingly vulnerable to losing their share of shoppers as consumers narrow their store choice sets.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Consumers are consolidating their shopping and placing more relative importance on speed and convenience, according to observations gleaned from "American ShopperScape 2006," a consumer shopping database managed by Retail Forward, a global consulting and market research firm based here. The firm's latest findings suggest that retailers that aren't among the top players in their respective channels are increasingly vulnerable to losing their share of shoppers as consumers narrow their store choice sets.

    "Consumers' continuous shopping behavior changes are often driven by factors outside retailers' control -- their lifestyles change, they move, their tastes change -- but also factors within retailers' control," said Mandy Putnam, Retail Forward v.p. and author of "American ShopperScape 2006." "Change in shopping behavior is shifting the retail landscape gradually but indelibly. Retailers and their suppliers need to track change in order to remain relevant and participate in shaping the retail landscape."

    According to American ShopperScape, increasing supercenter competition and rising gasoline prices have decreased the average numbers of discount stores and conventional supermarket retailers shopped by consumers in a four-week period.

    American ShopperScape 2006 also reports:

    -- Nearly 60 percent of consumers changed their shopping behavior to some extent this year. Among shoppers in the three major income markets defined by Retail Forward, more "Down Market" shoppers (under $22,500) made changes in their shopping behavior and more of them are shopping less often.

    -- More consumers are shopping and spending online. This year two-thirds of shoppers now shop online whether they make a purchase, and a growing percentage is making purchases. "Up Market" shoppers ($75,000+) are the most likely income market to be shopping online.

    -- Pricing changes affect consumers' shopping habits more than any other factor. When questioned about the factors under retailers' control that affect consumers' shopping habits the most, the largest percentage (35 percent) note pricing changes. Store promotions and advertising, changes in merchandise offered, and customer service assistance also greatly affect shopping behavior.

    "American ShopperScape 2006" also explores six primary shopping modes that consumers are using and which lines of trade they associate with each mode. The report acknowledges that the majority of shoppers participate in low-cost replenishment shopping. Seventy-seven percent of supermarket shoppers are in low-cost replenishment mode.

    "Knowing what shopping modes consumers are most likely in when visiting certain types of stores can help retailers and their suppliers efficiently meet the needs of shoppers along the customer journey," said Putnam. "And understanding shoppers' most likely secondary shopping modes can form the basis of relevant differentiation from the competition."

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