According to Nielsen, discretionary shopping trips continued to decline dramatically in November, as consumers shifted purchases online and to value-oriented retailers.
Overall in November, trips to retailers declined by 2.9% from the previous year.
Retail Channel Trends
Toy stores, electronics stores, and department stores saw the most dramatic declines in the number of shopping trips last month vs. a year ago. Trips to toy stores dropped by 23%, trips to electronics stores were down by 21%, and trips to department stores fell by 17%, Nielsen reported.
Retail channels offering low prices and strong value fared the best during November. Trips to dollar stores (+6%), online retailers (+4%), supercenters (+2%), and club stores (+1%) showed the only year-over-year increases in trip growth rates.
Private Label Trends
In October, value-minded consumers increasingly shifted their purchases to private label products, as the U.S. economy weakened. Unit sales of private label brands grew by 5% in October -- up from 2% growth throughout the past year.
Meanwhile, unit sales of branded products showed a mirror opposite trend, with growth declining by 4% in October after showing an overall 2% decline during the 52-week period ending November 1. As the U.S. economy slipped further in the third quarter and continued to slide in the fourth quarter, unit sales of branded products worsened in every grocery department -- except frozen foods.
In terms of dollar sales, private label products maintained steady 10% growth in October -- a trend that has remained constant throughout the past year. Private label alcoholic beverages, fresh and packaged meats, fresh produce, frozen foods, and dry grocery products saw the fastest dollar sales growth in October.
In contrast, overall sales growth for branded products slipped to 2% -- down from 3% during the 52-week period ending November 1. Although still growing, sales of branded dairy, deli, and fresh produce experienced the greatest declines in dollar sales growth. Sales of general merchandise products dropped markedly in October and during the 13-week period ending November 1.
Given the continued weakening of economic conditions, Nielsen expects this behavior to intensify in December and into 2009.
Nielsen's Tips For Manufacturers, Marketers, and Retailers
-Exploit new growth areas: consumer appetite for at-home products, basic necessities, and good values will only intensify.
-Don't assume consumers are not willing to pay a premium: price is important, but delivering a clear value proposition is more critical.
-Protect your turf: manufacturers should work proactively with their retail partners on branded vs. private label shelf-set rationalization.
-Companies that maintain sales and marketing efforts during recessions typically enjoy better post-recession growth: now is the time to utilize advertising to build customer loyalty and differentiate your brand.
Stay tuned on Nielsen Wire for regular updates on U.S. retail trends and other key economic indicators.