Big Changes in Small Formats

In a recent post looking at the changing formats of grocery stores, we observed some changing behaviors taking place in some of the UK’s biggest retailers. Now we see that Fresh andamp; Easy in the U.S.A. has indicated that the franchise is considering big changes to its small-format stores to help them be more competitive on price.

According to The Sunday Times, Fresh andamp; Easy owners Tesco, the leading retailer in the UK, had done all of their research into shopper behavior and “poked around their pantries” to find out what U.S. shoppers wanted. However, they failed to “poke around their garages” where, apparently, they would have found stockpiles of meat in the freezer, bought during special offers. Head of the U.S. operation Tim Mason admits to realising late in the day that U.S. and UK grocery-shopping habits differ quite fundamentally, with U.S. shoppers more likely to shop around for deals and have less store loyalty.

As all retailers contemplate overseas markets as an area for expansion to overcoming stalling domestic growth, we will be interested in finding out what knowledge and insights translate across borders. In a recent Integer survey in the UK, we found that virtually all of our respondents are now shopping around more than they used to and that shoppers will go out of their way to find value in the current environment, completing different parts of their shopping in different grocery outlets depending on perceived value, quality, and convenience. So is this less a difference in culture and more a shift in behaviour due to current economic circumstances?

– Contributed by Ian Thomas