"Economic factors, such as gas prices and the housing market, are changing shoppers' habits drastically," says Scott Marden, director of marketing research at the Baltimore-based Vertis. "More than 90% are affected, and many are shopping closer to home, stocking up more and combining shopping trips."
The company says there are other big changes afoot. In the last four years, the chief grocery shoppers in families are "showing great receptivity to grocery stores' prepared meals, increasing from 28% in 2004 to 40% in 2008."
And in just two years, there has been a considerable shift in adults who judge a store by its parts: "There's been a 5 percentage point increase in the number of adults that listed a department other than meat and produce as the determining factor in where they shop for groceries," he says. "Organic and seafood are showing signs of increased importance." What it means, he says, is that shoppers are increasingly looking to make fewer trips to the store, and to do one-stop shopping.
The survey also found some significant shifts in the media shoppers use before they go shopping. "While grocery insert readership has held steady more than four years, the percentage of adults using them to decide where to shop has increased significantly, from 52% in 2004 to 59% in 2008." And the number of shoppers who get help from the Internet has doubled in four years.
It also found gender differences, noting that women are paying closest attention to rising food prices. Almost half of all chief female shoppers say that price-related offerings--including the lowest everyday prices, best advertised specials and store coupons-- are the most important factor in choosing where to shop.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to make a choice based on convenience.