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BTS shoppers plan to use Web-enabled smartphones, social networks to save this year

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Inflation-related concerns will prompt back-to-school shoppers to utilize certain shopping tactics, including smartphone and social network use, to save this year.

According to a back-to-school survey conducted by Deloitte, 86% of households reported that they expect to spend the same or more on back-to-school items this year, while 7-out-of-10 respondents cited higher food prices (72%) and higher energy prices (70%) as reasons they may scale back spending this season, followed by about half (51%) who credit the lack of improvement in the job market to their anticipated restricted spending. Among those surveyed, 65% said that low prices are the most important retailer attribute when it comes to back-to-school shopping.

In terms of how shoppers will plan on saving big this year, nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents that own Web-enabled smartphones plan to use them for back-to-school shopping, while 3-out-of-5 (61%) will use them to get price information. Additionally, more than 2-out-of-5 (43%) will download discounts, coupons or sale information to their smartphones.

Deloitte also found that social networks will play a greater role in back-to-school shopping this year, with 35% of parents planning to use social networking sites to assist in their back-to-school shopping, up from 29% last year. Among these respondents, nearly 7-out-of-10 (69%) plan to use social networks to find out about promotions, while 44% plan to visit social networking sites to browse products and 28% will log on to read reviews and recommendations.

“Retailers need to be prepared for a consumer who is sensitive to prices, especially with the pinch households are feeling from higher gas and energy costs this summer,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman of Deloitte and the company’s retail and distribution sector leader. “Retailers should monitor customers’ reactions closely to recognize where they are flexible, and where promotions are necessary to drive traffic and generate purchases of higher margin products in the store.”

Ways that parents are planning on saving even more money include only buying essentials, reusing last year’s items and consolidating trips to save gas (55%, 26% and 28%, respectively).

“Price-conscious and/or time-constrained consumers are navigating virtual and physical storefronts to get the information they want quickly and easily,” Paul said. “Retailers need to respond with an integrated experience. In short, they must unite the store with their online and mobile channels to enable consumers to easily access product availability, promotions and information."

"Retailers can also increase personalization through digital touch points," Paul added. "One example of this is to create targeted mobile advertisements that engage parents and students with advice and merchandise specifically relevant to their shopping preferences to help retailers increase engagement, conversion and loyalty this season.”

Some consumers earning higher incomes, however, showed more confidence in their own finances and were less inclined to alter their back to school shopping this season: 82% among respondents earning $100,000 or more said their financial situation is the same or better than last year, compared with two-thirds 66% of respondents earning less than $100,000.

The Deloitte survey was conducted between July 5 and July 11, and polled 1,000 parents of school-aged children in grades kindergarten through 12.

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FMI names Heather Garlich director of media, public relations

BY Michael Johnsen

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Food Marketing Institute on Wednesday named Heather Garlich as the association’s director of media and public relations. She will be responsible for managing communications outreach and information activities related to FMI’s strategic goals, including government relations, food safety, conferences and events, and industry relations.

“We are pleased to welcome Heather to the FMI communications team,” FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin said. “Her wealth of experience in consumer, trade and government communications, coupled with her skills in media relations, will most decidedly enrich FMI’s presence as the voice of the food retail community.”

Prior to joining FMI, Garlich spent nearly four years at Porter Novelli Public Services in the food and nutrition practice. At the firm, she held management roles on numerous clients, such as Welch’s, Almond Board of California and Pharmavite, developing business plans related to nutrition policy, food science and current trends. Garlich’s experience spans multiple communications platforms, including stakeholder relations, traditional press and digital media strategies.

In addition, Garlich’s history includes trade associations, as she previously served as the manager for member communications at the Grocery Manufacturing Association and was an integral part of the 2006 merger of GMA and the Food Products Association. Garlich holds a bachelor’s degree in English with a journalism concentration from the University of Delaware.

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Ralphs appoints Donna Giordano as president

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI — Kroger on Tuesday promoted Donna Giordano to the role of president of the Ralphs division.

Giordano, 57, has been president of the company’s Quality Food Centers division, based in Seattle, since 2002. She succeeds Mike Donnelly, who was recently promoted to SVP merchandising for Kroger.

"Donna is an engaging and strategic leader who has earned the respect of our associates," Kroger president and COO Rodney McMullen said. "Donna’s extensive experience and focus on connecting with customers has contributed to the success of QFC. She has passion and gets the job done. We are excited that she accepted this new role to lead Ralphs."

Giordano joined the company’s King Soopers banner in 1972 while still in college. She was named store manager at King Soopers in 1982, and later held various director-level positions in key areas, including advertising, bakery, general merchandise, grocery and pharmacy. In 1999, Giordano was promoted to VP sales and marketing of King Soopers.

Giordano and her husband, Mario, currently reside in Seattle. They have two daughters. She will transition to Ralphs, headquartered in Los Angeles in early August.

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