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Exclusive PLBuyer Consumer Survey

March 28, 2012
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New research done exclusively for PLBuyer confirms that a brand being out of stock may be the best motivator for getting shoppers to buy private label instead.
Most consumers go shopping with a list and specific brands in mind to buy but if those brands are out-of-stock, they’ll turn to private label purchases, according to research conducted in January, 2012, exclusively for PLBuyer by Consumer Science, a Dallas/Ft. Worth-based consumer research firm.
“The majority of respondents, 62 percent, usually know the specific brands they want to buy before going shopping,” according to the Consumer Science survey of its 400-member U.S. online panel. However, asked “if a particular brand is not available in the store, what do you usually do next,” roughly 60 percent say they buy a private label product instead.
Even when they begin with a specific brand in mind to purchase, 67 percent of respondents say they look at other brands in a store before making their purchase decision, the survey found. Women are more likely to review other brands than are men, with 71 percent of female respondents saying they look at other brands while only 59 percent of male respondents say they do that.
Asked what was influential in getting them to switch from their usual brand, in-store price promotion recorded the highest average mean score of the techniques asked about, Consumer Science found. Following in-store price promotion as a purchase motivator are every-day lower price and better nutrition value. That likely means consumers are trying to determine the nutrition value they are getting for their food-shopping dollars.
Recommendations from family and friends come next followed by products made in the United States and food sampling events in-store.
At the bottom of the influence list are television and radio ads, recommendations from store associates, and coupons, surprising given the media attention on extreme coupon use during the current sluggish economy. Apparently coupons are not effective in getting many shoppers to switch from their usual brands to try something new, often the goal of a couponing program.
Attractive packaging ranks just above coupons and above packaging comes “other information on the label.” Asked to specify what that includes, respondents spoke of claims about being organic, allergy information, specific nutrient/ingredient information and social responsibility claims.

A trend which has been uncovered in previous Consumer Science surveys for PLBuyer, namely that consumers are going to specific stores to buy those stores’ private label, re-emerged in this survey. Roughly 63 percent of respondents say they visited a store at least sometimes specifically for its private labels. More than 30 percent answered yes to that question while the remainder said sometimes. That compared to 62 percent who said that in a study Consumer Science did in November, 2011.
Also, the median store brand basket percentage as perceived by consumer respondents to the survey rose from 30 percent in the previous survey to 50 percent in the latest survey. Younger and higher income groups perceived the percentage of private labels they bought higher than did other groups, Consumer Science finds.
Households making more than $50,000 annually “are more loyal to store brands than lower income households-they are less likely to think of store brands as inferior quality, more likely to visit a specific store for their store brands, less likely to buy less store brands if the economy improves,” reports Consumer Science. All of that should be good news for retailers hoping to hold into higher income shoppers even when the economy picks up steam again.
Younger shoppers also see private label favorably, another good sign for retailers wondering how to appeal to the millennial generation which does not necessarily follow the same shopping patterns as its parents did. Quality private label could attract them to supermarkets and other food retailers they might not otherwise consider shopping.

Several studies in recent months have pointed to the increasing role men are playing in family food shopping. That could spell good news for private label sales, although men hold much stronger opinions than women on the topic of private label, Consumer Science finds.
“Men tend to provide more dichotomous responses than females when considering store brands-they are more likely to buy just private label or just name brands, more likely to consider private label higher or inferior quality to name brands, more likely to visit a store because of its private labels and more likely to have a larger store brand basket percentage,” Consumer Science reports. Those results echo findings in consumer Science’s previous study for PLBuyer.
Other findings in this latest survey confirm those in previous studies as well as echoing other industry research. For example, 72 percent of respondents say price is the primary reason they buy private label. Some respondents responded “other” to this question and Consumer Science found that “the sentiment most often repeated on the ‘other’ category is that store brands are both less expensive and of equal quality to the national brand.”
Asked specifically about product quality, “The majority of respondents (74 percent) believe store brands and name brands are of equal quality. The younger age groups are more likely to believe store brands have a higher quality than name brands. Households earning less than $50,000 are more likely to think of store brands as inferior quality (26 percent) compared to those earning more than $50,000 (16 percent),” Consumer Science reports.
Asked, “for an average grocery visit, approximately what percentage would you say represents store brands,” responses varied around the 50 percent median with more than 5 percent saying 80 percent of their cart is typically private label while nearly 10 percent put the percentage of private label in their baskets at only 10 percent.

Consumer Science specializes in primary consumer research.  It utilizes a broad range of techniques and technology to customize research that delivers each customer the most value.
A qualified staff of researchers and moderators provide turnkey research, including study design, respondent recruitment and customized analysis and reporting. The offerings, combining traditional interviewing techniques and the latest technology, include intercepts, one-on-one, dyads, triads, focus groups, large sensory panels, in-home test, surveys, social media monitoring, video analytics and Web analytics.

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