& Money Worries Loom Large
Ten Best Loved Store Categories
Importance of Being Clean
& MONEY WORRIES HOVER
The seasonal holiday cup is half full of cheer and half
empty of money. Shoppers are more concerned about layoffs and high prices
than about anthrax or war.
Layoffs present and potential, among friends, family and neighbors,
are worrying 50 percent of our shoppers. Budget problems are troubling
businesses, government and consumers at the same time. War-related worries
are less intense. Progress on the war front, coupled with indulgence
in comfort foods and holiday celebrations, have made consumers feel
easier about war and terrorism than they did a month back.
Deep discounts and
triple coupons are connecting with concerns about high prices, jobs,
and money. Although actual price tags on many items are lower than they
were a year ago, consumers are shopping at Wal-Mart et al because they
feel that regular prices at most stores are higher than they want to
pay. Promotional pricing and interest-free financing bring prices into
line with what shoppers find motivating.
Shoppers are not
saying that terrorism and the threats to peace and safety aren't important,
but they are saying that "the world is a mess" and that many
of the problems they are facing seem interrelated. "These days,
my primary concern is staying employed, hanging on to my house, and
keeping my car running. Beyond that, I'm also concerned about loss of
privacy, backlash against minorities of various sorts, and availability
and affordability of medical care."
Concerns about layoffs,
recession, the stock market and the job market are feeding the concern
about high prices and driving shoppers toward deep discounts and deals.
Concerns about bio-terrorism, anthrax and drug availability are feeding
concern about drug prices - even among those with insurance plans that
"cover drugs less as co-pays keep going up."
(All percents based on 273 respondents.)
In spite of the financial troubles facing the nation's retailers, some
of our retail readers will be pleased to know that more than 60% of
the shoppers we surveyed readily named one or more stores that they
love. They will be especially happy to know that by a 7:6 ratio, more
shoppers named more stores that they love than name brands that they
love, suggesting that people relationships continue to count even more
than prices, performance, and packages.
their love-equity with their consumers whenever they do something to
make them feel warm and fuzzy. Bargain perceptions go a long way, but
so do friendly greetings, good management, hospitality, and interesting
Ten years ago, most
of the shoppers we asked about stores they loved responded with the
name of a supermarket. Today, even if we include specialty food stores
like Trader Joe's and Fresh Fields, more shoppers responded with a name
of a mass marketer. Ranking national names by love mentions puts Target
on top, with Wal-Mart at a very close second, and Kohl's at a not-so-distant
third, followed closely by Home Depot, Kmart and Aldi. Neither Sears
nor JCPenney made it to the top 25! Regional supermarkets like Publix,
Wegman's, ShopRite and Ukrops appeared on many love lists as well.
Target's heading this list is amazing considering how much larger Wal-Mart
is in number of stores and shoppers served. But many respondents put
both stores on the love lists.
- Those who stopped
to explain what they meant by loving Target mentioned interesting
merchandise and pleasant shopping as well as good prices.
- Those mentioning
Wal-Mart as a loved store mentioned the combination of friendly people
and great prices.
We didn't ask for
negatives on our holiday season questionnaire, but some of the respondents
who listed Target as their love store volunteered comparisons that were
almost universally unflattering to Wal-Mart. "Target outshines
both Wal-Mart and Kmart in cleanliness, neatness, customer service,
quality of housewares and overall a nicer shopping experience. I find
the management of my local Wal-Mart to be very shabby, especially since
they closed the regular one and opened the superstore. Sometimes it's
Target's love-buzz is loud enough that one of our respondents named
it the store she expects to love when it opens in her area. Another
wrote: "Our Wal-Mart has awful customer service. We go there
because the prices are better than Kmart's and the Kmart service is
even worse. Target is coming to our area and they will give them some
competition to clean up their act!"
Many of those who
named Wal-Mart and/or Target named two or more stores as love objects.
More than 1/4 of those who named Wal-Mart a favorite also named Target,
but the second store for both Wal-Mart and Target was more likely to
be a supermarket or clothing store such as Victoria Secret or Kohl's.
For many respondents,
not loving any store was based on having been betrayed or let down too
often, encountering what many see as poor management, or living in a
rural area that doesn't have any competition.
The connection between loving (or liking) stores and perceiving them
to be well managed is an interesting one that we haven't previously
explored or seen explored. A shopper that listed Home Depot and Target
as stores she loved explained that she considered them to be "well
managed stores. They have:
- store personnel
that are knowledgeable of merchandise and its location and willing
to help customers
aisles that are neat and clean inside and out
- plenty of open
check out lines during peak times
that is displayed in an orderly way."
"I used to love but now dislike my "new and improved"
grocery store, Publix, because the aisles are overcrowded with merchandise
and there is still more merchandise at the ends where moving a cart
along is difficult. They may be making more money but I don't think
they are managing the store as well as they did when it was smaller".
love my supermarkets because management never seems to know what is
selling and what is not. As a result of this they are always out of
popular items and long on the 'non-movers.' Scanners track sales and
inventory but they don't replace good managers."
"I stopped going to Eckerd's because there was no management.
The clerks were too busy talking to each other to answer questions and
knew absolutely nothing about the merchandise on display."
TEN BEST LOVED STORE-TYPES
- Mass market
- Department stores
(including Sears and JCPenney)
- Home and home
furnishings (Home Depot, Lowes, Crate and Barrel)
- Specialty food
stores (Fresh Fields, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's)
- Specialty clothing
stores (Kohl, Gap, Express, Victoria Secret)
- Dollar bargain
- Drug stores
- Club stores
- Book stores
Runner up categories
include thrift stores (such as Goodwill), toy stores, shoe stores,
and card stores.
The fact that mass
markets outrank supermarkets on this list reflects the fact that many
mass markets now include supermarkets within their walls.
The ranking also
reflects today's ideas about provisioning and the stores that today's
shoppers are depending on to meet their basic needs. Since food is available
almost everywhere in the United States, today's consumers are not dependent
on supermarkets for food.
Finally, many shoppers
find the mass discounters easier to shop than the supermarkets. They
can shop less defensively and with more trust that they will get good
value whether or not they shop carefully. Many shoppers find their supermarkets
to be tricky and deceptive in their merchandising. The BOGO (Buy One,
Get One) example was quite clear: Many shoppers distinguished between
"honest" BOGOs where the regular price was stated and not
inflated and exaggerated BOGOs in which the savings claim and/or the
price for two was higher than the store ever charged for one.
In keeping with the promotional spirit of the holiday season, we asked
shoppers to tell us about their favorite promotions. Almost 50 percent
of our respondents shared favorites in one or more categories. Our interpretation
of the responses suggests that food stores and their suppliers would
get a higher rate of return on their promotion dollars by putting them
into sampling than they are getting from double and triple coupons,
BOGOs and other discounts.
In the food and
- Triple Coupons
headed the top-of-mind favorite list.
- BOGOs came in
second. Many consumers differentiate between real and fake, dishonest
or mark-up BOGOs in which the BOGO price is higher than what they
consider a regular or prevailing price. Consumers describe regular
- Free and almost-free
turkeys came in a close third.
- Tastings and
samplings ranked fourth and were noted with much pleasure and enthusiasm
by many who cited them, e.g., "I love it when they have sample
foods scattered throughout the store."
- Frequent shopper
card discounts were mentioned without much excitement.
promotions supporting local schools or charities were considered praiseworthy.
"I think it's great that a percent of my purchases goes to a
school of my choice."
and supermarkets promotions that were cited with enthusiasm:
- Cooking classes
at the store
- Percent off total
- $ Menu at McDonald's
- also their monsters, movie tie-ins and 49 cent specials
- Acceptance of
expired coupons at Dominick's
- Carnation Cocoa
mixes going on sale at back-to-school stock up time
- Self check-out
- Doughboy points
on Pillsbury Products
- Free fifth gallon
of milk at Bilo
- Free products
from Giant Food
noted old promotions with wistful halos:
"I used to love the dish and glassware promotions - haven't seen
one in a long time."
"Safeway had a Dove van with free ice cream bars outside the store
about 8 years ago. I keep hoping it will happen again some day."
Other retail promotion
- Kohl's distributes
free store cash/merchandise cards to promote new store openings and
a $10 gift card for spending $25
- Cosmetic free
gifts with purchase
- Free products
at Office Max and Comp USA
- When Marshall
Field bought Dayton's, they got a lot of goodwill by giving charge
customers a 15% discount period and a free box of candy
- Taking extra
percent of items already on sale
- Senior discounts
on specified days
- Wal-Mart's August
- Walgreen's rebate
- Kmart's Blue
IMPORTANCE OF CLEAN
We asked shoppers about the best products of 2001 and found that the
share-of-mind was taken up by new ways to clean and new drinks to drink.
The cleaning category had more write-ins than any other - with P&G's
Swiffer the big brand winner and wipes the category winner.
Swiffer in many ways (Swifter, Swisher, and Swiffi) but seem to like
it in all spellings. Wipes got spelled correctly in a variety of brands
including Mr. Clean Wipes, Clorox Cleaning Wipes, bathroom cleaning
wipes, and even Oil of Olay Face Cleaning Wipes!
"This is a time when no one is going to feel particularly in
control, including financially. I'm just going to worry about month-
to- month expenses and hope the long term outlook improves and that
we will get back on track. The unknown is the scariest thing, so to
me, using the familiar or watching favorite TV shows that make you feel
good or playing home games with the family are probably some of the
best coping and security things we can do. And praying, anywhere, everywhere
and anytime, helps immensely. If you need to cry or talk do it, and
don't feel too embarrassed - we're all in this together of course -
do what you can do to help. The hardest part is figuring out what that
WISHES FOR PEACE, PROSPERITY,
AND A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR.
© 2001The Consumer Network, Inc., PO Box 42753, Philadelphia,
PA 19101. 215/235-2400. Email comments to ShopperReport@cs.com
or to Mona@MonaDoyle.com.