Notion of a ‘Primary Store’ Lessens With Consumers

CHICAGO -- Nine percent of grocery shoppers -- up from only 2 percent in 2011 -- say they have no "primary store" where they do their shopping, reflecting the impact that increasing channel blurring in the food retail industry is having on consumer behavior.

This was just one finding of the Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2014 report, which was presented by Leslie G. Sarasin, president/CEO of the Arlington, Va.-based trade organization, at the recently concluded FMI Connect event held in Chicago.

Conducted in collaboration with Bellevue, Wash.-based The Hartman Group Inc., this year's report revealed that supermarkets have returned to a 54-percent level of food retail channel share; supercenters are down to 22 percent; and each of the other categories, such as discount and specialty, are 1 percent lower in channel share compared to the prior year.

“Clearly, the traditional supermarket picked up a few points in all that movement, but what is most interesting is the leap in the number of people who claim they have no primary store," Sarasin said.

The study not only revealed a heightened reliance on multiple stores, but also an increasing fragmentation of shopping responsibilities within the American household.

“Drawing upon ethnographic research into U.S. food consumption, we found that the convenient, formerly helpful idea of a 'primary shopper' -- a single adult responsible for, and at least knowledgeable about, a household's grocery purchases -- no longer does justice to how American households manage their food purchases today,” noted Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group.

Overall, the report identified five major industry trends:

  • Diversification of the “primary store” as a touchstone of shopper behavior;
  • Fragmentation of the “primary shopper” role within households;
  • Generational transformation in what “planning” means to food shoppers;
  • Reorientation of consumer attitudes around wellness; and
  • The opportunity for food retailers to become allies in helping shoppers navigate food and wellness.

A copy of the full U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2014 report is available at

Food Marketing Institute members in the United States operate nearly 40,000 retail food stores and 25,000 pharmacies, representing a combined annual sales volume of almost $770 billion.

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