business news in context, analysis with attitude

There are three big issues on the menu this month in Facts, Figures & The Future:

• Todd Hale, senior vice president of consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen Homescan & Spectra, addresses the current economy and the impact on retailing. An excerpt:

“Rising gas prices and inflation across a number of fast moving consumer goods categories are having a tremendous impact on how U.S. consumers shop. Comparing changes in channel shopping trips and average per-trip basket rings during the first quarter of 2008 versus year-ago, total outlet trips were down 1.1% and average basket rings were up 2.3%. This is supporting evidence to the increasing trend of consumers combining errands and trips to deal with a tough economy. Retail channels winning shopping trips came from online (+6.6% in trips), supercenters (+4.1%), drug stores (+2.4%), and dollar stores (+0.7%).

“Retail channels benefiting from stock-up trips were grocery (+3.6% in average basket rings with shopping trips flat versus year ago), convenience/gas (+8.8% with gas price impact), warehouse clubs (+2.5%), and liquor stores (+3.3%). Retailers focused on nice to-have, not need-to-have, assortment experienced significant declines in shopping trips. Trips to electronic stores were off 2.3%, toy stores off 4.1%, apparel stores off 4.9%, department stores off 5.6%, office supply off 6.4%, mass merchandisers (regular formats, not supercenters) off 7.7%, and do-it-yourself or hardware home improvement stores, also feeling the pain of the housing crunch and drop in home equity loans, were off 9.9%.”

• Anne-Marie Roerink, director of research at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), writes about the role of sustainability “in operations, transportation, landscaping, packaging, recycling and building” as retailers, wholesalers and suppliers change the way they do business.

“Large numbers of food businesses are becoming more interested in this issue and finding ways to respond proactively to rising consumer demand, to comply with new regulations and to create competitive advantages,” Roerink writes. “Retailers are starting to hire people specifically for environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility and no less than 42 percent already have corporate level sustainability policies in place. Another 15 percent are looking to develop such policies in the next year or two.”

• And Phil Lempert writes that while David Acheson, food safety chief at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying hard to investigate the causes of the recent salmonella outbreak, “this now three-month-old ‘investigation’ seems more like one under the command of Inspector Clouseau.”

And, Lempert writes, “If nothing else comes out of the confusion surrounding this Salmonella outbreak, I can only hope that the food world: retailers and manufacturers alike finally demand a unified and well-funded food service agency.

To get your copy of F3, go to:

F3 is a joint production of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), ACNielsen, and Phil Lempert.

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