Philip Lempert, known by both consumers and the food industry as the “Supermarket Guru®” and an expert analyst on consumer and marketing trends, says the results of his SupermarketGuru.com consumer panel suggest that although shoppers believe they can obtain a better deal at a warehouse club store, it is not translating into a vast consumer movement into the warehouse club store. Nonetheless, as consumer shopping habits change, the warehouse club trip may become a more routine part of consumers’ shopping places in the future.
According to FMI Director of Research Janice Jones, “consumers are shopping differently in 2002 than in the past, they are willing to shop in more types of stores and are willing to take the time to seek out value. Supermarket operators cannot assume a weekly stock-up market basket from every shopper as they did years ago.”
According to the SupermarketGuru.com poll, only 39 percent of shoppers say they do a stock up trip at least every week. The majority of shoppers (60 percent) are making fill-in trips of 10 or fewer items at least weekly.
“Our SupermarketGuru.com poll reveals that although shoppers perceive they can obtain better prices elsewhere, the supermarket is still where people buy most of their food and non-food items,” says Lempert. “However in an industry where every customer counts, the perception that supermarkets provide less value, may continue to increase competition from warehouse club stores, natural food stores, discount stores and others. Supermarkets need to change this perception to maintain their customer base.”
However, while there’s a perceived value among warehouse club shoppers, 37 percent of all shoppers say they shop in a warehouse club store less than once a month while 31 percent say they never shop there. Thirty-six percent say they shop at stores other than supermarkets for lower prices and only 20 percent say they shop at a warehouse club monthly.
The poll also reveals that consumers prefer to purchase perishable foods from supermarkets. Eighty-one percent say they shop at supermarkets for vegetables and fresh meats, compared with 6 percent at a super center and 3 percent at a warehouse club store. However, supermarkets may well lose market share when shoppers want non-food items like detergent and paper products. Nearly a fourth (23 percent) purchase those items at a super center, 15 percent at a warehouse club store, and 14 percent at a discount store compared to 42 percent at a supermarket.
“The average shopper shops at 2.2 stores each week to obtain all their items and the fact that they are willing to go to different stores to purchase various items suggests that supermarkets are missing an opportunity to capture more consumer dollars by delivering and communicating a greater selection and value to their shoppers,” says Lempert.
When asked to describe why they shop at supermarkets, poll participants said, “planned purchases, many choices and the routine.” When asked to explain why they shop at warehouse club stores they said, “great value, good bargains, and impulsive purchases.” Similarly, shoppers described supercenters as having “many choices, good bargains and great value.” The bottom line according to both Lempert and Jones is that supermarkets need to create an air of excitement in the store to combat the misperception of the store being “routine.” Retailers should also take heed of the finding that consumers believe they can find better prices elsewhere and be careful not to assume that a shopper will automatically fill his or her cart with higher priced non-food items for convenience.
1,375 people from all 50 states answered the poll posted on SupermarketGuru.com. Eighty-three percent say they primarily shop at supermarkets. 11 percent say they primarily shop at supercenters like K-Mart or Super Wal-Mart, while 3 percent say they primarily shop at warehouse club stores like Sam’s or Costco.