‘Quality more important than price for Christmas food shop’

Shoppers are more focused on ensuring they buy good quality products rather than on cost this Christmas, in a shift from last year’s price conscious festive season, according to a survey by coupon firm Valassis.

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Almost half of consumers (48 per cent) said that better quality products are more important than price. A fifth of shoppers (20 per cent) cite cost as top of their priorities, with the rest claiming they have “no concerns” about their seasonal grocery spending this year. GfK carried out the survey of more than 1,000 consumers on behalf of Valassis.

Charles D’Oyly, managing director at Valassis, says the findings – based on a question exclusively asked for Marketing Week – demonstrate a shift in customers’ attitude and suggest consumer confidence is on the up.

“It seems shoppers have changed their attitude towards the festive food shop with the quality of goods rather than price now topping wish lists. The fact that consumer confidence is on the up should also bring some festive cheer to retailers,” he says.

So far, consumers have been slow to spend, with figures from MasterCard showing that people are taking a cautious approach, with sales growth in November falling to 1.5 per cent, below the average so far in 2013. GfK’s consumer confidence index also shows a drop, falling by one point to -12 in November compared to the previous month, although that is an improvement on the -22 score in November 2012.

Despite there being less than 2 weeks to go until Christmas, most consumers are yet to do their big festive shop, according to Asda CMO Stephen Smith. Speaking at an event in London yesterday (12 December), he said that less than a fifth of shoppers have completed their food purchases, with this figure behind last year.

While shoppers are on the hunt for quality, Smith said customers are increasingly promotionally savvy and are waiting this year in the hope of getting price cuts. Valassis found that while shoppers are less concerned about price this year, 82 per cent are planning to use a promotional offer and a quarter are looking for deals more than they were a year ago.

Valassis’ D’Oyly says the focus on quality and promotions means that supermarkets need to make sure they get across a value message, offering discounts as well as highlighting better quality products. He adds that promotions are often the “deciding factor” in which supermarket consumers choose for their big Christmas shop.

This is particularly true at Christmas, when Valassis found that many consumers opt for supermarkets that aren’t their regular store. Just 2 per cent of people use M&S for their regular food shop, but an additional 18 per cent will visit over Christmas.

Valassis found that an extra 15 per cent of shoppers plan to visit Waitrose, on top of the 4 per cent that use it as their main supermarket. Less than a fifth of shoppers plan to stick to their main supermarket over Christmas, although that is double the figure in 2012.

“The trend towards promotion seeking shows no sign of diminishing. When it comes to the seasonal shop promotions are often the deciding factor in which supermarket wins the battle of the big shop,” says D’Oyly.

While customers may be less price conscious with their food shop, generally they are planning to spend less over Christmas. A recent survey by GMI found that 58 per cent expect to spend less on presents than they did last year, with 43 per cent planning to use discount vouchers to make their money go further.

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