CHERRY PICKING FOUND AT SUPER KMART

CHICAGO -- Shoppers at Super Kmart Center stores in the Chicago area are happy to fill their baskets with sale items, but they have yet to accept the supercenter as their primary grocery store, according to recent consumer research."Consumers shop Super K for advertised and expected 'Temporary Price Reduction' deals and selected perishables," Jon Hauptman, an associate with Willard Bishop Consulting,

CHICAGO -- Shoppers at Super Kmart Center stores in the Chicago area are happy to fill their baskets with sale items, but they have yet to accept the supercenter as their primary grocery store, according to recent consumer research.

"Consumers shop Super K for advertised and expected 'Temporary Price Reduction' deals and selected perishables," Jon Hauptman, an associate with Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Ill., told a group here earlier this month. "Consumers are using the store to stock up on sale items; they're cherry picking."

Hauptman presented these and other findings from a focus group interview with consumers in the Chicago area who had shopped a Super Kmart Center. The focus group included 10 consumers, all of whom were the primary grocery shoppers in their homes.

Bishop prepared its supercenter research for CMF&Z, an advertising and public relations group based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and presented the results at a meeting with reporters.

Among the consulting group's other findings from the focus group interview:

Super Kmart was unanimously seen as the low-price grocery leader in the market.

Super Kmart's greatest consumer appeal is selected perishables -- such as bakery and deli -- and specialty departments.

Supercenters are not convenient for the "fill-in shopper."

Food shoppers passed through the general merchandise side of the supercenter, but they did not make a lot of purchases there.

Super Kmart does not provide shoppers anything unique or above and beyond a traditional supermarket.

Super Kmart has not yet established a strong private-label program.

"Blue Light" specials in the food department did not appeal to shoppers.

In Chicago, the Super Kmart competes against Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill.; Eagle Food Centers, Milan, Ill., and Jewel Food Stores, Melrose Park, Ill.

Hauptman said Super Kmart Centers are intriguing to shoppers, but they do not stand out from competitors' conventional supermarkets. "They're getting people to shop there, but they're not getting people to make it their store," he said. "Everything is as good as the supermarket, but nothing is better than the supermarket."

One facet of the Super Kmart, however, did stand out, Hauptman said. It has "great" prices in the deli department.

"They decided they were going to be a leader in the deli," he said. "Everybody [in the focus group] knew their deli prices."

In the fresh meat and produce departments, two categories Super Kmart is promoting heavily, the consumer response has been less enthusiastic, he said.

Kmart, which began opening supercenters less than two years ago, currently has about 27 of the units operating.