The future of consumers is the future of food retailing.
It was with that aphorism in mind that SN editors decided earlier this year to undertake an extensive consumer study to find out what consumers predict about their own future behavior.
The study centered on consumer questions such as these: * What features do shoppers find in the stores they currently patronize? * What in-store features would enhance the shopping experience?
What features do shoppers perceive exist in various other channels of trade, including membership club, drug, convenience, mass, health and Internet?
What product categories do shoppers think they will purchase the most, and the least, in years to come?
What store styles do shoppers frequent most, and least, for various product categories?
SN commissioned the NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y., to undertake the survey. It consisted of a four-page questionnaire, mailed to 527 households, which together give a fair indication of the nation as a whole. A response rate of 58% was obtained in a month's time.
In addition to the results of the survey itself, SN assembled a panel of consumer-affairs specialists to help interpret the findings, and asked a "futurist" to take a look at the findings for further assessment. Results of that whole package of information form the substance of the 24-page Vision 2000 supplement, which you'll find center-bound in this week's SN.
So what were the findings?
Broadly, the survey indicates that shoppers are fairly comfortable with their shopping experience, with a majority of the features they want already present. And, the survey suggests, shoppers aren't necessarily clamoring for more. When given a list of store features that might be desirable -- such as home delivery, on-line shopping, babysitting or dry cleaning -- shoppers acknowledged that their present shopping venue doesn't have such features, but less than 20% asserted that it should.
One aspect of the survey that caught the interest of the consumer-affairs specialists and the futurist was the seemingly low level of interest in Internet-based food shopping, especially given the fact that the Internet is a top-of-mind issue. Some 37% of respondents less than 40 years of age were interested in Internet shopping, while just 18% of those over 60 were interested.
Consumer-affairs specialists said the low level of interest was well reflected in reality, while the futurist asserted that consumers don't fully appreciate what's ahead in technology, so tend to understate its importance.