retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times over the weekend reported on how the combination of higher prices and out of stocks created by inflation and supply chain issues, is - not surprisingly - forcing many consumers to develop new shopping habits and exercise frugality muscles that they may not have used for some time.

One of the things that is happening is that shoppers are spreading out their business and making one-stop-shopping a thing of the past - not all customers, but enough to be noticeable.  People may be going to their traditional store for fresh foods, but then are using coupon with greater alacrity than in recent years.  Then, it is off to ther likes of Trader Joe's or Aldi for other items, and then maybe a trip to Costco for others, as well as for the purchase of gas for what most people believe is the lowest price around.

The Times notes that "inflation is at the highest level in four decades. But how you experience it can vary greatly depending on what you eat, how you travel and a host of other factors.

"It is normal for grocery stores to have 7 percent to 10 percent of items out of stock, but the events of the last two and half years — pandemic outbreaks, extreme weather, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — have caused that number to trend 3 to 5 points higher, said Katie Denis, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Brands Association."

The Times story is in line with a recent IRI study saying that 78 percent of US consumers changed their behavior during April in order to save money, up from 72 percent who said they did so in March.

KC's View:

One of the things that some retailers should be concerned about is that these new shopping habits will stick, as their competition takes advantage of the opportunity to create sustained loyalty.  Retailers that want to keep their customers need to do a better job of communicating with them - not just trying to sell them something, but keeping them apprised of how current events are affecting the store and its customers.  Retailers need to give customers a win from time to time, and make sure that they are perceived as the shopper's agent, not just a purveyor of goods that is constantly raising prices (even when the times call for such increases).