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Have Shoppers Changed?

In the wake of the Great Recession, there’s speculation and some research that plumbs the evolving buying habits of consumers. Are shoppers now different than they were, say, two years ago? Are they chastened, more frugal, less spend-y than they were? And, if so, is this a lasting change or a passing thing?

Some answers are emerging. In a recent study of 8000 shoppers by Alix Partners, researchers perceive a shift away fromconvenience and toward value (price + product). “Today, for value, shoppers are willing to cede time, service and experience,” says Matthew Katz who heads their retail practice. “They are willing to wait in line a little longer or drive that extra two miles.”

Consultancy Shoppercentric found behavioral changes among British shoppers. In fact, 87% of those surveyed reported that they had changed how and/or where they shop due to the recession. Nearly half (48%) of those surveyed can be categorized as Soft Reacters: people who are slowly but perceptively changing their shopping and spending habits. Another 24% are Strong Reacters who have been forced to make more drastic changes.

What no one can yet predict with confidence is whether any of these changes will remain as the economy continues to improve. One thing we all know for sure: shoppers continue to visit stores and, as retailers continue to report, they are spending more when they are there. And getting it right at that point of purchase – where the product, people and purchase intent inhabit the same space – remains a critically important intersection for shoppers everywhere.

Have shoppers changed? Yes – somewhat. Will they remain as they are now? No, they’ll continue to change as circumstances and experience lead them. Studying these habits will still challenge brand marketers and retailers and feed researchers and pundits the world over.