POLLS APART

News & Solutions Consumer PreferencesThough merchandising and marketing experts profess the opposite, consumers claim the majority of their grocery purchases are planned before coming to the store, according to an SN consumer poll.In fact, 70% of the 1,000 consumers polled in the nationwide telephone survey label their grocery purchases as planned. Those numbers directly contradict a 1995 study by

News & Solutions Consumer Preferences

Though merchandising and marketing experts profess the opposite, consumers claim the majority of their grocery purchases are planned before coming to the store, according to an SN consumer poll.

In fact, 70% of the 1,000 consumers polled in the nationwide telephone survey label their grocery purchases as planned. Those numbers directly contradict a 1995 study by the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute, Englewood, N.J., which concluded

that 70% of purchase decisions are in some way influenced by in-store merchandising.

Furthermore, another nearly 15% of those polled said it is most likely that grocery items they purchase were noticed in a circular, meaning 85% of those polled said their decisions on which grocery items to purchase are made before getting to the store.

"We're real comfortable in standing behind our results," said Dick Blatt, POPAI president, defending his group's survey in which consumer buying habits of 4,200 shoppers were studied. "We're real comfortable with the methodology we applied, given the purpose of our study."

"What you're finding is that people have a purchase set or decision set before going into the store," said Lily Lev-Glick, POPAI's manager of research. "But what folks say they're going to do and what they actually do can be two very different things."

In the SN survey, conducted by America's Research Group, Charleston, S.C., consumers were asked what percentage of their purchasing decisions occur inside the supermarket. Nearly one-third responded that less than 10% of their purchases happen in-store. Another 30% said less than 25% take place inside the store.

When adding in the 18.7% who said 26% to 50% of their purchasing decisions take place in-store, 81.3% of the consumers responding in the survey said less than half of their purchases are made in-store.

"Although the percentages in this survey are not as high in terms of in-store decision-making, the numbers still point to the need to merchandise effectively," said a buyer with a division of Albertson's, Boise, Idaho. "If 81% of the people are saying that less-than-half their purchases are made in the store, that still leaves a fair amount of decisions that are in fact made while shopping.

"All you have to do is look at the numbers from when products are on sale. It's quite obvious that when things are on sale and on display, the sales of those products go way up. If anything, point-of-purchase merchandising just helps us nudge the consumer a little bit. I guess they don't even realize they're being nudged."

A buyer with a division of Safeway, Oakland, Calif., said the results of the survey didn't surprise him.

"It's just like when people say they're buying lots of low-fat and healthy products. Though the numbers for those items are way up, they're not up nearly as much as consumers would have you believe.

"With merchandising, a lot of it is kind of subconscious," he added. "People may not realize they're being swayed inside the store. Maybe they were thinking about buying Oreos, but once they saw it on display, they fully decided to make the purchase. Maybe if that display wasn't there they would have skipped the Oreos or bought something else."

End-aisle displays are most likely to catch consumers' attention, according to the survey results. Nearly 40% of those polled favored end-aisle displays, while another 28.5% said in-aisle displays did the best job of grabbing their attention. A sign on the shelf was cited by 23.9% of those polled.

Increased sampling could also lead to increased sales, the survey results indicate. More than half -- 57.6% -- of those polled said they would like more opportunities to sample grocery products at the supermarket. The remaining respondents said they don't try samples (29.1%) or would like to see fewer opportunities to sample products (13.3%).

Though coupon redemption rates are reported to be declining, shoppers still list them as an important part of grocery shopping purchase decisions.

Slightly more than half those polled said it is very likely that they will use coupons for the brands of products they usually buy. Another 31% said it was somewhat likely. About 18% of those polled said they are not likely at all to use coupons for the brands they purchase regularly.

Planned Events [chart]

Respondents said that when they buy a grocery item at a supermarket, it is most likely that they:

Planned to Purchase It 70.7%

Noticed It in a Circular 14.8%

Saw a Sale Sign 8.8%

Saw a Display 5.7%

Displays of Attention [chart]

Though only 5.7% of those surveyed said seeing a display was the most likely reason for their decision to buy a product, displays still ranked high as attention-getters.

Which is most likely to draw your attention to a particular product?

In-Aisle Display 28.5%

End-Aisle Display 39.5%

Attractive Packaging 7.7%

Don't Know 0.4%