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A recent Progressive Grocer Economic Pulse survey of 91 grocery retailers on the current state of business their business has that, despite the down economy, 44.4 percent projected that second-quarter 2009 sales would be above last year’s. Meanwhile, 31.1 percent, or nearly a third, forecast that sales in the second quarter would be the same as last year’s, and almost a quarter (24.4 percent) predicted their second-quarter sales would be below those of the previous year – clear indications that grocers still face some steep economic challenges.
The biggest group represented by the survey respondents was that of single-store owners (25.5 percent), followed by those operating 51 to 100 locations (21.3 percent), 11 to 50 locations (19.1 percent), 201 or more locations and two to 10 locations (17.0 percent each).
Sales for the fourth quarter of 2008 were higher than those of the year-ago period for an impressive 60.0 percent of respondents, but 31.1 percent said their sales for the quarter had come up short compared to the prior year, most likely due to the economy. Just 8.9 percent reported sales that were the same as last year’s.
For the first quarter of 2009, 43.5 percent of those polled said that their sales were higher than last year’s, while 37.0 percent saw lower sales. Sales for the quarter were flat for 19.6 percent of respondents.
Although the recession may not have affected supermarket retailers as badly as other retail sectors, respondents still noticed adverse changes: 77.1 percent noted that during the first quarter of 2009, shoppers bought less, 54.3 percent observed lower shopper traffic counts and 45.7 percent reported overall reduced sales. Other effects, seen by 17.7 percent of the retailers who participated in the survey, included more consumer purchases of corporate brands, reduced sales in many general merchandise commodities, and customers trading down on items.
When asked what marketing and merchandising tactics they would use to bolster sales in the next quarter, 84.1 percent mentioned pricing specials, such as discounts and coupons, on core product categories. Other popular responses were more in-store events (61.4 percent), increased local marketing (36.4 percent) and adding new products and merchandise (also 36.4 percent).
Most respondents (63.8 percent) said that suppliers should help improve sales of their products at the retailers’ stores by providing more specials. Another sizable contingent (57.4 percent) suggested that suppliers provide in-store merchandising/marketing ideas for their products/category, while 53.2 percent though that suppliers should lower their prices. Among other responses, 42.6 percent said that suppliers should provide more consumer demand marketing specific to their products, and 38.3 percent said that they should provide other types of promotional support.