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Food Shopping Got Fun?

Food Shopping Got Fun?

food_cart.jpgIn the 15 years I’ve been writing and reporting on the food industry, I have never come across a poll or study stating that supermarket shopping is fun. Researchers pinpointed a number of reasons. Convenience, pricing and crowds might be the culprit in one study, while mundanity, necessity and a sense of sameness were to blame in others.

So, this is the first time I’m seeing a poll showing that a majority of shoppers stated they enjoy the act. The Nielsen Company conducted the survey, finding that more than one-half (53%) said they “really enjoy or like grocery shopping.”

In this study, everything was reversed: Only 9% responded that they dislike or hate shopping (38% of whom rush in and back out).

Another large group (again, 38%) stated that they consider food shopping a chore, but not an onerous one — though they admit they preplan their trips and know exactly where they need to go in order to speed their visits.

It was the “like” and “love” shoppers that caught my eye and got me thinking about what has changed in the supermarket industry since I started reading these polls in the early 1990s. Sure, times have changed. Not only are there more types of stores to shop, but stores in general are much more sophisticated and differentiated than they were back then. Do consumers equate those changes with a sense of fun? It would seem so, if the Nielsen poll is to be believed.

For example, some 18% of the consumers in the like/love-to-shop category regularly browse the entire store. That’s reflective of “treasure hunt” mentality encouraged by the club and dollar channels. Ever been to a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market? Again, these are retailers that promote lingering and browsing through a combination of unique products, distinctive environments and other factors.

Luckily, this strategy has spread to conventional retailers, from Safeway with its Lifestyle stores, to Wal-Mart with its new Marketside format. Everyday supermarkets are quickly becoming an outdated format, as retailers experiment with venues that better reflect the demographics they serve.

“Knowing consumers' attitudes toward grocery shopping is critical for retailers to understand how to encourage shoppers to spend more each trip, thereby helping grow their business,” said Todd Hale, Nielsen's senior vice president, Consumer & Shopper Insights. “For example, retailers shopped by consumers who dislike shopping or think it is a chore, consider simplified store layouts. Adequate staffing at registers and shelf checkout are a must. Retailers shopped by more consumers who like to shop have more flexibility to drive sales across the store."

One hopes that the 9% who said they still hate supermarket shopping will find one of the progressive, forward-thinking retailers the rest of us are currently using. The vast improvements they've made over these past years have already made this group of folks a rather small minority.

(Photo credit: RogueSun Media)