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Shifting Economic Winds Produce Consumer Changes

A gradually recovering economy is leading to changes in how consumers perceive branded products and convenience.

That is among the findings of recent research conducted by The Integer Group, according to Craig Elston, senior vice president of Insight and Strategy. Those findings were presented in a workshop at FMI 2010.

During the height of the recession, around mid-2009, the need for value led consumers to express more interest in private label, Elston said.

“But as consumers become more comfortable and less fearful, national brands are seen as beacons of quality and reliability,” he said, citing his company’s research.

Moreover, the notion of convenience isn’t really defined anymore by location of physical store, he said.

“Convenience of the in-store experience is more important now,” he said, again citing the company’s research. “That involves everything from store layout and checkouts to how easy it is to return products.”

Jamie LaRue, Kellogg Co.’s senior director of Shopper Marketing, said the industry shouldn’t embrace the idea that change is around the corner. “Change isn’t coming, it’s here,” he emphasized. We must understand where the consumer is heading so we can earn her trust and hard earned dollars. How is she looking at value and convenience?”

He stressed the need for retailers to rethink store layouts with the intention of enhancing convenience.

“For a convenience trip, why is milk at the back of the store?” he asked. “Why not bring a small cooler to the front to make it easier for the shopper?”

In contrast, for a stock-up, trip, “The longer you can help the shopper stay in the store, the better it will be,” he said.

He noted that a good strategy to assist shoppers with children is for a retailer to provide in-store entertainment to keep the kids patient for longer periods.