U.S. shoppers are shrewder, study finds With less time come higher expectations

January 19, 1993|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Remember consumers of five years ago? The had carefree looks on their faces and threw money around like confetti.

They're gone, MasterCard International is telling the nation's retailers in a study to be released today. The American consumer is shrewder, more pressed for time and more demanding than ever, the report concluded.

The survey, to be presented today at the National Retail Federation convention in New York, paints a picture of American consumers who have become much more knowledgable about the retailing industry. They know the differences between retailers and have realistic expectations about what they can expect in each, the report shows.

"The retailers that prosper in the remainder of this decade will be those that meet or exceed shoppers' expectations," said Ted Jablonski, MasterCard's vice president of retail marketing.

The survey also identified some clear differences in the way men and women shop.

Among men, 73 percent say they know what they are going to buy when they set off to shop, while only 51 percent of women have their minds made up in advance, the research showed. Women are more likely than men to find shopping relaxing, by 64 percent to 35 percent.

One exception is grocery shopping, which men like more than women, says the survey, which was conducted by retail consultant Mimi Lieber and Yanklovich Partners Inc.

Ms. Lieber, with LAR Management Consultants in New York, said the main reason was that groceries are among the most organized of stores -- a factor that appeals to men. The study recommended that retailers interested in appealing to male customers make their organization of merchandise more logical to suit men's more "linear" approach to shopping.

The survey also made an explicit recommendation about the service U.S. shoppers want. Nine out of 10 shoppers like to be greeted as they enter the store, the survey found, but after that they want salespeople to "back off," said Peter S. P. Dimsey, president of MasterCard's European region.

The study found a fragmented consumer marketplace, with five distinct "clusters" of shoppers, each having distinctly different expectations.

"Disenchanted shoppers," those who have given up on the idea that shopping can be enjoyable, make up 17 percent of the population, the study showed. Another 22 percent are "price hounds," always seeking the lowest price no matter which brand, while 20 percent are bargain hunters, who insist on brand-name merchandise.

For 19 percent of consumers, the quality of service is the paramount conideration. "Low-interest" shoppers, who find the whole business a bore, represent 22 percent of those polled.

Ms. Lieber said her research also showed that members of the "baby bust" generation think they are not respected by retailers, who tend to treat them lightly because they tend to wear casual clothes.

This sentiment is even more intense among minorities.

"Young people of color really do believe stores watch them as potential thieves all the time," said Ms. Lieber, even though members of this group are willing to spend freely in stores where they feel welcome.

Retailers can take some measure of comfort from the survey's findings. Shopping is still America's second-favorite pastime, after dining out, and 78 percent of American consumers prefer to shop for themselves.

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