Views from the Hills by R. E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail

Educating an Old Warrior

Over the years, there have been many things that I have prided myself in experiencing.  One of these experiences involved a job I had during my school years with the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company.  That is A&P to most people.  I not only worked the dairy, produce and grocery departments, but what I was most proud of was the setting up of new stores.  I was the youngest in the division to be asked to do this type of work.  I was learning and demonstrating the knowledge of store traffic, category management and profit centering.  Was I confident in my abilities?  You better believe I was!

Now in the modern age, along comes PathTrackerTM .  No longer do we rely on personal observation and common sense in determining how people shop and how a store can most effectively be set up.  PathTrackerTM , the new electronic marvel, accurately tracks the path of individual shoppers throughout the store.  It records the stops a shopper makes and how long they stopped at that location.  Tying this data with the purchase data reveals information previously unheard of and only wished for.

I have just received the initial Level 1 Syndicated Report of PathTrackerTM .  The report covers 60,000 shopping trips broken down into 25,000 paths taken by the shoppers through the store.  Now this was a shock.  In my day, a half century ago, we knew that there was a specific traffic flow through the supermarket.  In those days the aisles were narrow, barely able to give room for one cart to pass another.  And the carts in those days were smaller.  Actually, in the grocery department, there were aisles where the lower bins (yes, bins, not shelves) were set up for cans to be placed on their sides, in that way giving more usable cubic footage for stock.  Laying on their sides required that the labels were only read easily from one direction in the aisle.  But this was no problem, we knew from which direction the shoppers would be coming down the aisle.  We set the store up to handle specific traffic flows.  But that was a half century ago.  And I believe there are people out in the real world who still believe that is the case today.  I did.  Now I know better, than to PathTrackerTM .

With bigger stores, wider aisles, larger carts, more frequent store visits and a much greater SKU inventory, there have been major changes.  No longer is there a major traffic pattern.  In 60,000 shopping trips, we found 25,000 different paths through the store.  This blew my mind.  In looking at the dominant or average traffic flow for each aisle in my initial trip through the report, I found things that I would have never in all my in-store experience thought I would find.  Traffic flow is nowhere near what I thought it was.

A majority of the shopping trips in this store covered less than half of the store.  The average shopping trip is 1,569 feet or only about 28% of the store area.  Only 1% of the shopping trips covered more than 75% of the store.  This average trip included 32 stops to purchase 18 items at a cost of $14.55.  This average trip consumed 17 minutes.

This initial report is loaded with facts and figures about how the consumers do their shopping.  I hope to cover more of the data in future Views.  In this Views I want to accentuate two points.  First, we now have a good way of testing our beliefs about how the consumer shops.  Second, one thing that leaped out at me was the fact that we must know what percent of shoppers travel  down our brand's aisle.  With most brands, the majority of their sales are spontaneous, they are not planned.  We need to know how many shoppers are traveling down the aisles and how many are not in order to effectively manage our market potential.  There are aisles where less than 10% of the shopping trips are involved.  Is one of these aisles where your brand is displayed?  If so, you had better be aware of it and plan for it.  For more information on using PathTrackerTM , call Herb Sorensen at the Portland number below.

Sponsor:  Sorensen Associates Inc      Portland, OR  800.542.4321        Minneapolis, MN  888.616.0123
The In-Store Research Company