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PHOENIX — Following a presentation from Nielsen's SVP consumer and shopper insights Todd Hale on Monday, Nielsen hosted a panel of six executives — three retailers, two suppliers and Stuart Taylor of Nielsen — to discuss a new hierarchy Nielsen has applied to general merchandise items to bring clarity to a number of front-end categories.
With partners GMDC and Radian, Nielsen this summer generated the database that is now serving as the foundation for the new reports — to date more than 800 syndicated reports have been generated by Radian for GMDC members to be made available Dec. 1.
More than 20 million UPC codes were part of the new hierarchy. "This new hierarchy, it's interesting how it was built based on how many retailers think about how categories are defined [and] more importantly how consumers think about the general merchandise categories," Hale, who moderated the panel, said.
"We're really interested in getting to know who the consumer is, what they're looking for, what they're shopping for, what they're shopping behaviors are," noted panelist Cheri Taylor of Kinney Drug. "These reports are going to help us to get to where we need to be," she said. "We are in markets in a lot of areas where we are the only store in town. So we have to make sure that we offer the products that everyone is looking for."
"Anything that puts us closer to our customer, that's really crucial," added John Gehre of H-E-B. "At H-E-B, we really believe that we want to know what the customer is doing, we want to see what is in her basket, we want to understand what we're missing in the shop and what's going on with her."
"Now that we can compare our retailers' GM performance on a category by category basis against the marketplace, that will help us to analyze where there are issues," noted Bob Zekis of Imperial Distributors. "Poor performance might indicate assortment issues, promotional issues, merchandising issues, opportunities with space allocations, there may be operational issues within the stores or even organizational issues," he said. "Now that the data says this is what's working and this is what's not working, what we want to ensure is we capitalize on what is working and take remedial action against what isn't working."
"I don't want to say the sky's the limit, but we're just starting," noted Nielsen's Taylor. "We're scratching the surface and as the questions come in from the GMDC membership as they start to review the data, there's going to be a lot of good, creative working coming out of that."
The panel consisted of Semon Cull of Bi-Lo Holdings, Gehre, Bob Richardson of Clorox/Burt's Bees, Taylor (Kinney Drug), Taylor (Nielsen) and Zekis.
According to Hale's presentation earlier, getting to know the consumer better across any category is crucial because of the financial headwinds and associated consumer angst.
Shoppers are more value-driven today, as evidenced by the drop in median household incomes (in 2011 inflation-adjusted dollars) from $54,489 in 2007 to $50,054 in 2011 — the lowest its been in the previous 10 years.
There is also a more pronounced divide between the haves and the have nots. As many as 71% of shoppers with annual household income of less than $25,000 reported rising food prices has forced a change in their shopping habits. And 65% reported rising gas prices has forced that change.
Conversely, as many as 58% of those who are generating more than $200,000 in annual household income reported that overall cost increases — in addition to food and gas to include rising utility bills, rising healthcare costs and the hit from the payroll tax increase — have had no impact on their spending.
By generation, baby boomers are most impacted by rising food costs (60%) and rising gas prices (55%). For those Americans still feeling the pinch from a slow economic recovery, this means more restrictive budgets and fewer purchases.
The future looks muddled, too. While the economy is still the chief concern among consumers, more and more are identifying job security, debt, health and food prices as some of their greatest concerns.
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