LOS ANGELES -- Retailers that provide consumers with continuous, consistent value are likely to have a better year than those who don't, the chairman and chief executive officer of Smart & Final here said.
Speaking as part of a media conference call to assess the retail outlook for the year, Ross Roeder said consumers have money to spend but they are more particular than ever about how and where they spend it.
"Consumers are willing to spend money for the items they want, and they have sufficient discretionary income to do so," he said. "It's just a choice of how they spend it.
"If a retailer can deliver value to a customer, he can look forward to a pretty solid year. But retailers that don't provide what the consumer is looking for in terms of continuity or consistency of product and value will have a more challenging year."
According to Roeder, consumers are reacting to things differently than ever before, "and past experience is not holding anyone in good stead, so it's hard to draw conclusions about what will happen this year.
"But consumers will spend money on products that are important to them, and if value is not there, regardless of the price, people will get angry. People want to feel they're being treated fairly.
"If they feel they're getting a fair value and they're treated with respect, they will buy. If not -- well, that's how we'll separate the winners from the losers."
Consumers are also looking for familiarity, Roeder added. "They're looking for ease of shopping, and the grocery industry is in for a turbulent period if companies make radical changes in their pricing levels. A chain like Publix does an excellent job maintaining focus on its strengths, and we intend to do the same at Smart & Final by focusing on the products our customers want."
Roeder said he expects 2002 to be a mixed year for retailers. "Consumers are subdued and somber, and they will only buy or react to things that meet very specific needs, from the high end down, and retailers who really react to meet those specific needs will do well. But retailers must maintain tremendous flexibility and adaptability to focus on the relevancy of what they provide."