23 February, 2007

Tom Fender offers an insight into consumer behaviour

Knowing me, knowing you, knowing shoppers

We know that understanding customers is the lynchpin to a successful business, it's why so much emphasis is placed on loyalty cards by the supermarkets. But Epos or sales data only records sales, not what customers had wanted, or information that would help understand where tomorrow's sales will come from. You need to communicate with shoppers to learn this - and at HIM we are about to speak directly to 3,000 off-licence shoppers via our SOLTrack programme.

Jonathan Rons, client director at HIM, reveals how shopper profiles and purchases change during the course of a day and makes comparisons with convenience stores as an example.

The off-trade sector is a male dominated environment compared to convenience stores and supermarkets - 60 per cent of shoppers are men, but in c-stores this is 40 per cent. It is i nteresting to note that 50 per cent of men admit that when it comes to buying presents they leave it to the last minute. Perhaps, this is something off-licences can tap into, exploit, and heavily communicate?

Rise of the 'grey pound'

Off-licence shoppers are older than c-store shoppers - 52 per cent are over 45 years old compared to 44 per cent . Off-licences, therefore, need to have a range or products and a pricing structure to match these more mature shoppers. Let's remember how important the "grey pound" is likely to become in years to come.

Local traditional retailing is more important to older shoppers than younger ones, but they're the ones who are more likely to want "traditional service" (knowledgeable staff, courtesy, pack bags etc). The older generations are more likely to have travelled to wine producing regions, so they would probably be more receptive to themed weeks (Chianti week, Rioja week, Margaret's River week).

The older consumer accounts for 60 per cent of all off-licence shoppers during the daytime. However, as soon as it turns 5pm, the over-45s account for 45 per cent of customers as the younger workers arrive.

Only a quarter of shoppers are in the mid-20s to 30s age group during the day - this jumps to 45 per cent after 5pm. Speed, chilled drinks, availability, quick service, no queues are the things that are important to young professional shoppers. The age group that stays consistent over the trading day is the 18-24 s (10 per cent of all customers right through the day).

Timing is everything

While retailers will be unable to re-merchandise the shop to cater for the age variance, they should be able to ensure that the relevant categories, which are important to the sexes or age groups, are ready for business at the core trading time . For example, c hilled beer and wine in the evening for the "pick up on the way home from work" customer.

Purchases change through the day too. Cigarette sales are pretty consistent at 20 per cent during the day, but this rises to 31 per cent of all shoppers who visit post 5pm. Is this an opportunity for cigarette companies and retailers to introduce daily 4pm availability check sheets? Other categories that record higher sales penetration post 5pm include lager (from 19 per cent to 26 per cent) and wine (23 per cent to 31 per cent). Sales of spirits on the other hand fall from 12 per cent during the day to 5 per cent in the evening.

By the end of March, we will have the very latest moment-of-truth customer feedback from 3,000 off-licence shoppers. Will attitudes, behaviours, profiles, missions, customer needs have changed in the last 12 months? Watch this space.

HIM operates the only continuous shopper tracking programme for off-licence retailers (Thresher, Bargain Booze, Wine Cellar) and their suppliers. For more information, please contact Georgina.wild@him.uk.com

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