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BizReport : Trends & Ideas : March 02, 2009

Is the recession forcing consumers to change shopping strategy?

A new survey by research consultancy Shoppercentric has found that the recession is forcing British shoppers to stop and reconsider where and how they shop.

by Helen Leggatt

shoppercentric logo.jpgOver a thousand online interviews with the main grocery shopper in British households revealed some interesting statistics about changes in consumer behavior when choosing brands, products and stores.

According to Shoppercentric, the recession is forcing 87% of those surveyed to make changes to how and where they shop. Just a small percentage (13%) feel their current situation and finances warrant little or no change to their current spending ('the Unaffected').

Of the 87% that are currently changing the way they shop, Shoppercentric identified three distinct groups:

- Planners (15%) - shoppers who have yet to feel the effect of the recession, but are planning ahead for the worst. This group is beginning to economize by shunning ready meals and making food from scratch and avoiding temptation. They are also price-focused.

- Soft Reactors (48%) - shoppers who are slowly, but surely, making definite changes, albeit small ones. They avoid small 'top up' shopping trips, sticking to one main buying spree, and are likely to move to Own Label brands and are avoiding waste and temptation. What we are seeing here is a more controlled way of spending and improved household financial management. Interestingly, women appear to be reacting faster to tightening budgets with 50% of women falling into this category compared with 46% men.

- Strong Reactors (24%) - shoppers who have been strongly affected by the recession and, as a result, have been forced to make major changes to their spending habits. This group actively seek out the best deals, often going from store to store.

"The current situation is forcing shoppers to confront their past excesses, and many of the cost-cutting strategies they are learning as a result are likely to remain with them once the downturn ends," said Dr Susan Rose, Consumer Behavior Expert at Henley Business School. "A simpler, less excessive lifestyle, however, will mean that retailers and brands will have to be more competitive to stay in the game."

Is online shopping playing a part in the recession? It sure is. Almost a quarter (22%) are using online shopping more because they are able to track how much they spend as they go, not to mention the savings made in fuel. By shopping online, consumers can also avoid temptations such as the lure of the bakery, the promotional displays and packaging.

"Simply creating a brand, giving it strong promotion and hoping for the best, will no longer be enough," added Dr Rose. "What retailers need to understand is that shoppers are looking for support through the bad times, and if they can provide that, it will be rewarded during and after the recession with repeat business and customer loyalty."

A full copy of the report can be found online.

Tags: British, grocery, online shopping, planners, recession, shoppercentric, soft reactors, strong reactors, U.K., unaffected

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