Consumer channel surfing has dollar channel and club riding bigger waves

CHICAGO — Consumers shop as many as seven retail channels in pursuit of the best value, SymphonyIRI Group reported Wednesday.

"Even though the recession has long since softened, the economy is far from stable, so consumers are holding on to the frugal behaviors they adopted earlier in the downturn,” stated Susan Viamari, editor of SymphonyIRI's Times & Trends. “Shoppers’ ongoing quest for low-cost CPG solutions is evidenced in share gains by supercenter and dollar store channels, which are both successfully acquiring shoppers from across competing retail channels.”

Dollar store penetration has been on an upward trend for several years now, with 2-out-of-3 Americans shopping this channel during the past year, SymphonyIRI Group noted in its latest Times & Trends report, titled “Channel Migration: Charting a Course on the Voyage for Value.” Increasingly, dollar stores are going head-to-head with other channels for share of routine shopping trips. For instance, Family Dollar is adding cooler space to more than 1,000 locations this year, and Dollar Tree is adding to its food and beverage assortment, as well as opening a third-party pharmacy in a Florida location.

Efforts like these have contributed to dollar channel retailers winning heavy shoppers from across retail channels. The most sizeable shift is that of heavy drug channel shoppers — the top one-third of spenders within the channel — into the dollar channel. This is not a huge surprise, as the two channels carry many of the same CPG categories and both are well positioned, geographically, for easy-access fill-in trips.

Over the past year, consumers have been making less frequent but larger CPG shopping trips. Trips declined across grocery and mass merchandise channels and are likely being influenced by an ongoing decline in frequency of pantry stocking trip missions. One might think the decline in stock-up trips would negatively impact the club channel, but trips actually have increased by 2.1% during the past year due to a culmination of factors. First, club channel retailers are expanding their number of outlets. In addition, club trips are being bolstered by lower gas prices and moderating food inflation, which makes it easier to absorb bulk-item pricing. The dollar channel also saw trips increase significantly during the past year, which reinforces the notion that consumers are viewing dollar stores as a “smart” choice for affordable CPG solutions.

Channel share shifted slightly during the past year, with drug, dollar and club channels each gaining ground at the expense of grocery and mass merchandise. For instance, the grocery channel continued to lose dollar share and now captures 47.9% share of grocery dollars, a decrease of 0.3% versus 2011, which emphasizes the ongoing struggle against nontraditional channels for share of food and beverage sales.

SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar, entitled “Channel Migration: Charting a Course on the Voyage for Value,” at 2 p.m. EST on Aug. 22. To register for this webinar, hosted by Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, click here.

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