Report: Consumers Putting Off Holiday Shopping Until Thanksgiving
New York City, Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers may be in a hurry to jump start holiday sales, but many Americans plan to wait until after Thanksgiving to buy gifts, according to a new survey by market research firm NPD Group.
“I spotted the first holiday set-up in a store on August 18th this year—that’s nearly a month earlier than last year,” wrote NPD’s chief retail analysts Marshal Cohen. “Retailers are looking to start the season earlier but consumers just aren’t ready.” Forty percent of consumers—10% more than last year—said they don’t anticipate beginning their holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving, according to NPD’s 2007 Survey of Consumers’ Holiday Purchase Intentions.
The survey also tried to gauge whether the state of the U.S. economy would impact holiday sales. Only 5% of respondents said they would spend less over the next two months than they did last year.
The power of PRISM
Surely you’ve heard by now that a “revolution” is taking place at the point of purchase. A veritable “paradigm shift” of near Biblical proportions is sweeping through the field of in-store marketing, turning the advertising world on its head and forcing every CPG company in America to rethink its approach to its in-store promotions.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking. What’s with the marketing hyperbole? “Revolution” and “paradigm shift” usually mean over-promise and under-deliver. And if, in fact, that is what you’re thinking, I can’t say I blame your cynicism. But let me be the first to tell you, you couldn’t be more wrong.
You see, PRISM, the bold new in-store marketing project piloted by Wal-Mart, P&G, Nielsen and others, is the real deal. And although its founders (known as the consortium) are nothing if not ardent self promoters, there are many reasons to believe that the byproduct of PRISM, known simply as the In-Store Metric, will indeed alter the in-store space on a magnitude not seen since category management or RFID.
But first let’s start with a reality check. Drinkers of the PRISM Kool-Aid would have you believe that the In-Store Metric, which in layman’s terms is a detailed measurement of in-store consumer activity, is the greatest thing since sliced bread. A more realistic view might be: The jury is still out. (It is, after all, a project in its infancy, with barely of shred of hard data in the hands of anyone but consortium members.)
That said, if indeed the jury is still out, it won’t be for long. This December, the PRISM beta test comes to an end. And when it does, Nielsen’s newly created division, Nielsen In-Store, will begin syndication of its in-store consumer-activity data. When that happens, the rest of us will be able to answer the critical questions that so far have not been directly addressed, such as: What exactly will the In-Store Metric yield? How will marketers use that data? And how will it change both the in-store space and the overall ad spend?
At the recent In-Store Marketing Expo in Chicago, a panel of founding PRISM members shed a little more light on the early PRISM findings, revealing, among other things, a concept many marketers once deemed impossible in the in-store space: The Truth About ROI Is Out There.
What exactly does this mean? It means the in-store marketing space, and more specifically the measurement of consumer activity in the in-store marketing space, is about to go from guess work to hard data. A POP display for hair care, for example, that’s decked out in catchy graphics and bright colors placed two thirds of the way down the personal care aisle, won’t just sit there in the hopes that its in-store placement maximizes its functionality. Instead, PRISM data will provide marketers with the know-how to build, position and track the display to be sure it reaches the right shopper, at the right time of day, in the right part of the store. In short, the In-Store Metric will empower marketers to make informed decisions about their in-store spending.
That’s the bright side. But just as PRISM has led to much speculation about the benefits it will bring to in-store marketing, its arrival has raised as many, if not more, unanswered questions as there currently are answers. Will PRISM migrate ad dollars away from the television spend, as many have speculated? Will PRISM increase the in-store marketing spend (as many are hoping) or will an informed ad buyer use this empowering data to fine-tune, and perhaps decrease, his or her in-store ad spending? And finally, since PRISM is knowledge, and knowledge is power, the question we all should be asking ourselves is how the creation of the retail space as a measurable marketing venue will affect the balance of power between retailers and manufacturers, and who is likely to gain more power in the end.
Food, beer pairings tap into new opportunities
Craft beers are back in a big way, challenging food retailers to discover how best to merchandise a varied and broad assortment of brews. Taking a local approach is one way to address the challenge.
With hundreds of craft brewers in the United States, and thousands of craft beers, food retailers with limited space have to make hard choices. Some have opted to go large with beverages. In its newer, bigger supermarkets and Marketplace stores, Kroger has blown out the space devoted to beverages, in some cases devoting more than 10% of the store to drinks, wine, spirits and beer.
Wegmans, too, has devoted a significant portion of its larger stores to beverages. Its emphasis has leaned more toward wine, although it does devote a relatively large space to beer, and generally features a New York state favorite, Saranac, as a prime part of its offering.
An advantage of offering local craft beers comes from the enthusiasm of their brewers. Just last month, New York City’s famous South Street Seaport hosted the New York Brewfest. The event featured 300 craft brews, mostly from in-state breweries, although this year a limited number of out-of-staters joined the festivities, including Spanish Peaks, which brews Black Dog ales, a line that has won a strong following in Gotham.
Building on local success is almost as important with craft brews as is supporting area brewers. After all, local distributors are often determined to introduce brews that will draw the best response from area quaffers. Craft brew consumers develop affinities, often through what they sample on premise, that retailers can use to guide their assortments.
Black Dog was at the Brewfest to connect with customers in an embracing environment. “It’s simply the best sort of advertising we can do for the brand,” said Justin Fisch, vp of marketing for USB, which owns Black Dog ales. “We can get the consumer to taste the product and it allows us to have one-to-one interaction. The interaction really helps with all our consumers, who are becoming more and more interested and dedicated to learning about beers.”
The desire to learn more about beer distinguishes craft brew fans even from import aficionados. Tastings are a big draw to craft beer fans, with those that pair food and brew gaining in popularity, a trend restaurants are exploring. While retailers can’t always grant samples, they have the opportunity to pair beer and food in the aisles, as some do food and wine. The opportunity to merchandise beer and food can be especially important in New York and other states where most food retailers can’t sell wine.
Beer and wine pairing has even led to the publishing of books designed to help consumers match flavors. The trend is potent enough that Anheuser-Busch, in January, is publishing the “Great Food, Great Beer, the Anheuser-Busch Cookbook: 185 Recipes for Pairing Beer with Food.”
“They’ve wanted to do this for some time,” said Trina Kaye, a spokeswoman for the publisher, Sunset Books. “The fact is that they wanted to educate people about beer pairing.”