For today’s retailers and manufacturers, it has become increasingly complicated to pinpoint who are today’s primary shoppers. Soccer moms? Working women? Men? In a new study commissioned by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, GfK Custom Research North America answers the questions with some surprising results.
The study shows that, despite radical changes in society, women still dominate the retail marketplace. Although women’s personal and professional advancements have grown significantly in recent decades, the time spent grocery shopping has not decreased.
According to the study, two-thirds of women say they still handle much of the grocery shopping and, furthermore, they still take the time to make the decisions with three quarters of them forming shopping lists and 53 percent taking time to clip coupons and search for specials. And 40 percent of women shoppers say they spend about an hour in the supermarket.
Women are also the rulers of the kitchen. Eighty-four percent of women still act as the sole preparer of meals in the household, with 61 percent of women stating they prepare meals at least five times per week. And the majority of these meals are not prepackaged meals that require a quick nuke in the microwave, 64 percent make most meals using fresh ingredients which generally take more time.
Aside from meal preparation and grocery shopping, women are also responsible for the other important household areas: Seven in ten women say cleaning the house is their job and three-fourths take on the majority of the laundry in the home. Since women are those making the purchases, they have become frequent store brand purchasers, with only three percent saying they never buy store brands.
The survey was conducted to assess the role the women play in household shopping and thus how marketing strategies would be impacted for U.S. retailers and store brand suppliers. The study included over 1,000 women who were pre-qualified as their household’s primary shopper. The results of the study do show that for the majority of women their roles in the household have not changed in any significant way.
By Lorrie Baumann
The Fresh Market is a chain of 145 stores in the Southeastern, Northeastern, Midwestern and Great Plains regions of the United States. The chain has recently expanded into Houston, Texas and into the California market with four stores—one in Palo Alto and three in the Sacramento area. One more California store was under construction at press time. The Santa Barbara store is expected to be opening in December. The Fresh Market stores rely on quality, service and ambiance as the ingredients that create a relaxed, comfortable and friendly environment, bringing customers in to buy the fresh foods they will serve their families.
“Our focus is on providing customers with high-quality food and excellent service in a unique atmosphere, and our stores are designed to encourage interaction between customers and employees,” said Craig Carlock, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Fresh Market for the past five years. Carlock has been with the company for 14 years, originally coming over to the company from Procter & Gamble.
“I was attracted to the food concept, the growth, and the chance to be part of a special company,” Carlock says, explaining the unusual move from the manufacturing conglomerate to grocery retailing. “The chance to contribute to a growing enterprise draws a lot of people to The Fresh Market. I have found that we can attract very talented people because they want to be part of growing something from a regional brand into a national one.”
Customers will meet a lot of those talented people in The Fresh Market stores. In the produce department, there is a store employee on the floor at all times. The bakery, seafood and meat departments are always staffed with people behind the counter. “There’s service all around the store,” Carlock says.
The Fresh Market stores average 20,000 square feet and have about 10,000 items in stock, with a total of 20,000 items moving in and out over the course of the year. Each store has a full-service bakery, full-service prepared foods and deli department, a convenient selection of frozen foods, beer and wine, bulk snacks and nuts, candies and fresh-ground and whole bean coffee. The chain is also testing single-cup coffee service in a couple of locations.
Quality is ensured through demanding specifications in every category. Carlock says, “The quality is such that it’s hard to find that kind of food at other places.”
The stores strive to create a gentle, relaxed ambiance through soft lighting, tile floors, soothing music and the aroma of baked goods wafting from the bakery. These and other things are designed to help customers enjoy their time in the store. “We sample coffee throughout the day. We carry your groceries to the car,” Carlock says. “Quality, service and ambiance are really the three ways we think about bringing the customer to the market. We think all of that together creates a great experience…One of the things that happens in our stores naturally is that customers tend to slow down and enjoy the experience. There is an element of ease. Over time, many of our customers develop relationships with our employees. If you’re in there two or three times a week, you’ll learn the names and faces of the people who are helping you. Although we’re a chain, we strive to develop the name and style of a neighborhood market that’s part of the community. People and food that you can trust.”
The passion behind those watchwords helps to explain why the chain is growing at a robust 15 percent per year, by store count. The chain slowed from that pace, intentionally, during the recession but resumed its growth at that rate in 2010. The stores in Houston and California opened within the past 12 months. Other stores opened this year in Charlottesville, Va., Aiken, S.C., Lincolnshire, Ill., Mt. Lebanon, Penn., Orlando, Fla., Overland Park, Kan., Lynchburg, Va., Naples, Fla. and Birmingham, Ala. Seven more stores are set to open by year end.
“We want to put our stores where the customers are. Our real estate strategy is to find trade areas where customers will be receptive to our fresh food and our ambiance,” Carlock says. That decision about the likelihood of a welcoming reception is based more on education levels and active lifestyle than on affluence, since The Fresh Market does well in middle-income neighborhoods as well as in wealthier ZIP codes. “We have found that people enjoy food, enjoy service and enjoy ambiance all around the country,” Carlock says. “People of all income levels come in.”
“Some of our customers use us as a primary grocery store and are there a couple of times per week, and others shop us for special occasions,” he continues. “People who come in regularly are usually using a European style of shopping, where they’ll buy fresh items for tonight and tomorrow night, and then they’ll come back a couple of days later and get another set of fresh items.” With a 20,000 square footprint, the stores are easy to get into and out of. This facilitates a European style shopping experience. According to Carlock, although customers become familiar with the core 10,000 items in stock, learning exactly where to find them in the store, the flow of those other 10,000 seasonal products helps to generate a sense of adventure as well.
The stores add to that sense of adventure with frequent sampling programs and monthly chef demonstrations. Local chefs demonstrate recipes and offer tastings. “During a three-hour period, our chefs prepare the month’s featured recipe two or three times, so customers can see step-by-step how to prepare it, and can sample it as well,” says Drewry Sackett, The Fresh Market’s Community and Public Relations Manager. Decisions about featured products and recipes are made at the corporate level and then promulgated throughout the chain. Recipes are posted on the company’s website along with a video of the demonstration, so that customers who are excited enough to try it at home can refer to the website when their memories fail.
“We try to focus on recipes and products that lend themselves to easy weeknight dinners. Chefs cook on a gas cooktop, so they only prepare recipes that can be done easily and quickly in a single pan, which our customers appreciate,” Sackett says. “The recipes are paired with wines (in the stores that carry wine), so they’ll sample the recipe along with a specific wine. In addition to the demonstrations, we invite customers to join us for the regular sampling events, where they can come in and try products that might be new to them. Our events are always centered around the food experience.”
This holiday season, Oregon Food Bank and Natural Grocers are teaming up to provide hunger relief and emergency food for Portland-area families in need during the holidays. For every turkey purchased by customers of the Beaverton Natural Grocers store, the company will donate a 12-pound bird to Oregon Food Bank to add cheer in holiday food boxes.
“Natural Grocers will be donating high quality naturally-raised turkeys to Oregon families in need,” says Kemper Isely, Co-President of Natural Grocers. “The holidays are a special time of year for families, but can be especially difficult for families with limited resources. This buy one/give one free offer is a simple and effective way for our customers to help out another family in a healthy way.”
Oregon Food Bank will distribute the donated birds during the 2013 holiday season. In cases where a whole bird is not needed, or a vegetarian option is required, Natural Grocers has offered to donate $30 cash instead. The buy one/give one free turkey offer is part of Natural Grocers’ ongoing commitment to providing emergency food relief across the nation. The company donates five cents to Oregon Food Bank each time local customers check out using their own reusable bags, and runs a donation campaign for two months each year with a healthy $50,000 dollar-for-dollar match. In addition, all excess and distressed food items are donated to local food banks.
The need for emergency food remains at record high levels across the U.S. – and particularly in Oregon. In an average month, an estimated 270,000 people in Oregon and Clark County, Wash., eat meals from an emergency food box.
“We are happy to have a new local grocery partner to help to support our efforts,” said Susannah Morgan, Oregon Food Bank’s CEO. “Natural Grocers has a long history of providing both food and cash donations to food banks across our country. It’s a good example of how a grocer can involve communities across the country to help neighbors in need. And it’s a good reminder that ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference by becoming involved with their communities to raise awareness and take action.”
Krysti Weddle, manager of the Natural Grocers store in Beaverton, reminds customers that turkeys need to be pre-ordered now, well in advance of Thanksgiving. “These are not hard-frozen birds from factory farms. They are naturally raised without antibiotics or growth promoters, and they are delivered just-in-time. Customers who want to take advantage of the buy one/give free one turkey offer need to reserve a turkey now at the store or on our web site. We’ll take care of the rest.” The turkey pre-ordering page can be found at http://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-locations/beaverton-oregon/OR/turkeys.
Natural Grocers offers only natural and organic products on its shelves. Shoppers will find only USDA-certified organic produce and meats from animals raised naturally without the use of antibiotics or hormones. The affordable grocery chain also offers an extensive natural dietary supplement and body care department, and a large selection of gluten-free and other products for special diets.
Natural Grocers has some of the highest standards for a grocer in the country, and is equally as well known for what it does not sell: it will not carry foods that contain artificial ingredients such as colors, sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, antibiotics, hormones, or produce grown with synthetic pesticides. (See: “What We Won’t Sell and Why.”)
Beaverton Natural Grocers is open Monday through Saturday from 8:56 a.m. to 8:04 p.m. On Sunday the store will be open from 9:56 a.m. to 7:06 p.m.
About Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage
Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage (NGVC), founded in Colorado by Margaret &Philip Isely in 1955, was built on the premise that consumers should have access to affordable, high-quality foods and dietary supplements, along with nutrition knowledge to help them support their own health. The family-run store has since grown into a successful national chain with locations across Colorado, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico,Montana, Kansas, Idaho, Nebraska, Arizona and Oregon—employing more than 2,000 people. The company went public in July 2012; however, Isely family members continue to manage the company, building on the foundation of their parents’ business. Natural Grocers’ popularity and success can be traced back to its founding principles: providing customers with high quality products at every day affordable prices. See store for details on buy one/give one free turkey offer.