A former New York City mayor, Ed Koch, used to greet constituents with the query, "How am I doing?"
The mayor found posing such a question to constituents often produced useful opinions.
In keeping with that approach, it's not a bad idea to go to the ultimate boss every now and then to ask such a question, so SN went to food retailers' ultimate boss -- consumers -- to ask how we're doing as food retailers.
You'll discover, as did the mayor, quite a bit of useful information is produced by asking that question. Better yet, you won't have to take to the streets and harangue a lot of people to get an answer. All you need do is turn back to Page 1 and you'll see SN has done the scientific equivalent of asking the "How am I doing?" question by commissioning a consumer poll, and by reporting its findings.
One thousand consumers, contacted on behalf of SN by America's Research Group, Charleston, S.C., have weighed in with their collective opinion on a host of matters concerning food retailing.
Perhaps the most promising finding is that the various efforts undertaken by supermarket operators to remain competitive in the face of relentless challenges posed by other channels of trade are paying off.
Here's how: Some 73% of shoppers polled identified supermarkets as the retail channel providing the best overall food-shopping experience. Other styles of retailing featuring a food-retailing component aren't really visible in this court of shopping satisfaction: Membership clubs scored 13% in the measure and, remarkably, supercenters scored just 6%.
What prompted consumers to give the big nod to supermarkets? It's execution of the basics of the business that made it happen: 35% of respondents preferred supermarkets because of superior location, 20% because of price, 19% cited quality and 13% said variety.
It bodes well to see 35% of those surveyed said their supermarket shopping trip is improving as compared with the shopping experience supermarkets afforded just one or two years ago. Asked what was improving, 48% perceived variety was better, 31% thought service was better and 12% perceived quality advancements.
At first glance, it seems ironic that consumers perceive an increase in variety at just the time many food retailers are trimming nonproductive stockkeeping units. But on second glance, the finding proves the contention that too much variety results in consumer confusion, and actually reduces the credit consumers give a store for variety. And maybe the product reductions are well directed too.
Customers may discern an increase in quality and service because food retailers are becoming more expert in prepared-food presentation. Indeed, 70% of respondents said supermarkets do a very good or excellent job in prepared food. The survey also sheds light on how consumers perceive supercenters. The essence of it is shoppers will take a portion of their food-purchasing business to supercenters, but they don't want the big format as their only shopping choice. Clearly, the format is too large for all shoppers to patronize all the time. Some shoppers, though, would like to see supermarkets augment nonfood lines, particularly household goods, health and beauty care and other health-related products.
Overall, how are we doing? Not too badly in the opinion of this shopper group. But take a look at this important survey to learn a lot more about the report card consumers would give supermarkets.