ACNielsen Looks Into its Crystal Ball, Makes Retail Predictions for 2010

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- RFID gains ground, Wal-Mart hits $500 billion, metal detectors at supermarket entrances -- these are some of the predictions made by market research firm ACNielsen at its Consumer 360 Conference yesterday.

"Today's hectic lifestyles have changed the way people shop," said Todd Hale, s.v.p. of ACNielsen's Consumer Insights. "What used to be a rather leisurely activity has turned into a rushed, stressful nuisance for some shoppers. Retailers that acknowledge this stay one step ahead of the game. These days, retailers are looking for ways to keep customers happy by selling them unique products, getting them in/out of stores quickly, smothering them with good service, and/or saving them money."

According to ACNielsen, this challenging retail situation is here to stay. Hale made the following predictions about the face of retail in 2010:

-- RFID will be widely applied to track in-store shopping patterns, stock merchandise, and measure consumption. Self-checkout will be greatly simplified as "EZ-Pass"-style devices hit retailing.

--Wal-Mart sales will reach the half-trillion-dollar mark as the store becomes a leading source for immediate health care.

--Stores will offer valet parking.

--Metal detectors will be installed at store entrances.

--Private label will reach a 20 percent dollar share

--Grocers will "go big, go value, go niche...or go away."

--High gas/heating costs will continue to reduce shoppers' disposable income and will cause channel evolution.

Hale encouraged retailers to keep their customers satisfied by altering business practices to focus on personalization, value, and convenience. He shared the following "survival tips" designed to teach retailers to maximize their growth potential in the face of consumers' tightened purse strings. Among them:

--Benchmark and monitor shopper dynamics both by category and across the entire store.

--Think outside traditional channel categories by understanding pricing, assortment, and promotion strategies.

--Leverage manufacturer expertise to stay ahead of consumer trends.

--Be quick to accept and quick to discontinue new products.

--Happy associates make good shopper engagements.

--Use e-mail to contact shoppers.

--Develop premium, exclusive brands: Private label doesn't always have to be a low-price alternative.

--Translate frequent shopper programs into loyalty programs.

Those retailers that incorporate Hale's "survival tips" into their game plans will see immediate results, he said. Frequent shopping trips and customer loyalty are signs of success retailers can count on, both in the present retailing situation and in the future.

"Many consumers are not only brand-loyal, but also store-loyal," he said. "If they feel a store goes out of its way to make their shopping experiences more pleasant and less stressful, consumers will show their appreciation with more frequent shopping trips and bigger sales totals."
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