FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Shopping in the "Never Normal" Retail Environment

The American shopper shops more frequently but buys less, going out of her way to seek low prices while still valuing service. So says the study "How America Shops 2006" by WSL Strategic Retail.

The survey found that many retail categories saw declines in purchases since 2004, with only pharmaceuticals, food and pet supplies (necessities, in other words) seeing an increase in sales. Net spending declined in almost every population category studied, including those with incomes over $100,000. It also found a saturation in the retail space, with little growth in any retail channel over 2004. Regardless of income level, shoppers appear to be seeking out the most for their money, whether by shopping at "big box" retailers or smaller stores that enhance their value by providing unique services. "A growing gulf has emerged between where affluent and lower-income consumers shop," the report says. "For the first time in years, how much money a shopper has defines where she or he shops."

WSL attributes these patterns to what it calls a "never normal" business climate. As WSL founder and principal Wendy Liebman puts it, "Post 911, consumers found themselves in a 'New Normal' retail landscape... but today they reel in a 'Never Normal' world rife with unrelenting shocks that range from corporate scandals, war and tsunamis, to Katrina, see-sawing oil prices, and who knows what comes next. They anxiously wait for whatever may come next and shop accordingly." In such an environment, comfort and security become key factors.

The survey was compiled before the most recent run-up in oil prices, so it would stand to reason that the report's findings will only be exacerbated in the coming months.

Source: Visibility PR