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Despite Rising Economic Optimism, Recessionary Shopping Behaviors Persist

Price shopping remains pervasive for typical shopping trips, with the pull of private label dependent on product category

Despite recent news of rising consumer confidence in the U.S. economy, a new study from Vision Critical® reveals that recessionary-sparked changes in shopping behavior are persisting. More than four-in-five American consumers (83%) are comparing brand name prices to store brand prices during typical shopping trips, up 5 percentage points since Spring 2011.

1- Despite Rising Economic Optimism, Recessionary Shopping Behaviors Pesist

As well, private label remains an attractive alternative, with nearly one-quarter of Americans (23%) willing to trade down to a private label brand if manufacturers raise brand name prices. Of the 22 categories tested, consisting primarily of food and beverage, but also OTC medication and personal care products, OTC medication is most vulnerable if consumers are faced with a price increase.  Other categories with an increased risk of consumers switching to private label include household staples such as frozen vegetables, canned vegetables, pasta/rice, and (hot or cold) cereal.

2- Despite Rising Economic Optimism, Recessionary Shopping Behaviors Pesist

Given that these most ‘at risk for switch’ categories are common household staples, the results suggest retailers must be mindful of their own store brand’s package sizes and quality, especially if priced comparably to other retailers’ private label brands. “It’s not only the manufacturers that need to carefully consider their category shoppers’ behavior before altering package size or pricing right now. Retailers must also pay close attention to the interplay between pricing and pack size of their own products, since consumers are watching all brands alike” advises Rich Rizzo, Vice President of Consumer, Retail & Shopper Insights at Vision Critical.

The alcoholic beverage category is least vulnerable to private label substitution if prices increase for national brands. While the most at-risk categories have a strong private label presence on shelf, the category least at risk–alcoholic beverages–has a weaker private label presence on shelf and/or restricted availability in private label brand form. This suggests that more availability and shelf space may encourage greater consumer willingness to try out beer, wine or spirits store brands, and may also suggest that this category has the most room to grow within the realm of private label development, except in regions where this may be prohibited due to state or local governmental control of alcohol sales.

3- Despite Rising Economic Optimism, Recessionary Shopping Behaviors Pesist


The data featured in this release was conducted by the integrated Consumer, Retail and Shopper Insights Team of Vision Critical as a part of an ongoing research series tracking evolving consumer attitudes and shopping behaviors.  Results are based on a national online study conducted in the U.S. between February 15 -16, 2012. The total sample size is 1,016 adults in the US.  The margin of error for this sample size is +/- 3.07%, 19 times out of 20.