SymphonyIRI Report Examines Shopping Mission Trends

Times & Trends report finds pantry stock-up and quick trips account for two-thirds of CPG trips and dollar sales.  

It has long been a daunting task to stay in lock step with the shopper mindset.

After all, mindsets are a moving target and can quickly change due to a variety of reasons, including purchase needs and time considerations. These considerations dictate the type of trip, or trip mission, which permeates every aspect of the shopping trip from beginning to end. In its latest Times & Trends report, “The CPG Basket: Fostering Growth in a Time of Conservation,” SymphonyIRI examines the current and emerging trends of the four predominant trip missions—quick trip, special purpose, fill-in and pantry stock-up—that CPG marketers can leverage to provide the low-cost, high-value solutions needed by today’s cash-strapped consumers.

Average basket ring across and within trip missions has been a moving target during the course of the past two years and is being influenced by changing consumer rituals and vacillating pricing trends. Quick trip and special purpose basket size grew only slightly, while pantry stock-up baskets and fill-in baskets began declining in 2009 and eventually began increasing in early 2011. Baskets within these missions have been growing at an increasing rate in 2011; however, the rate of increase remains below the level of inflation and reflects extremely conservative shopping behaviors.

“For CPG marketers, the difficulty is that no ‘one size fits all’ budgetary ritual exists,” said Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI. “Rather, strategies vary by channel, category, brand, market and even at the household level. Shoppers are no longer strolling aisles making casual, spontaneous purchases. Quick trip missions are more prevalent across a majority of channels and income segments. And, when shoppers do stock their pantries, it is a premeditated shopping trip with lists in hand.”

Within grocery, mass/supercenter and club channels, the predominant trip mission is the pantry stock-up mission, which accounts for one-half of sales in grocery and one-third of sales in both mass/supercenter and club channels. In all of these channels, pantry stock-ups account for 15-20% of trips. Pantry stock-up missions took a hit during the economic downturn and have been replaced by more quick trips and, to a lesser degree, fill-in trips.

Quick trips are a strength of the drug and dollar channels and are driven by “need it now” purchases. Their nearby locales make it convenient to swing by for a few quick items without a significant time or gas outlay. Retailers in both of these channels are shifting their models to capture an increasing share of consumer spending. For instance, Dollar General has been focused on updating the assortment and layout of Dollar General Market, a hybrid grocery/dollar store format that contains limited perishables and a value-focused grocery selection. Meanwhile, CVS and Walgreens are adjusting their drug store formats to include more consumables, particularly in urban areas of the country.

“Non-essential spending has been placed by the wayside in favor of controlled spending,” said John McIndoe, senior vice president, Marketing, SymphonyIRI. “Clearly, value is the carrot for today’s shopper. And, with the rocky road to recovery spreading into the horizon, value will remain at the core of consumer shopping strategies for months to come. Retailers and manufacturers who can be flexible and nimble in light of these shifting strategies are those who can best succeed in winning not only consumer loyalty, but also share of the basket.”

Retailers and manufacturers seeking to maximize opportunity within the new, emerging retail environment should consider the following actions items:

  • Step up frequency and granularity of consumer and market assessments: Manufacturers should analyze share shifts on a monthly basis to identify emerging opportunities; retailers should assess purchase dynamics across key product categories to determine resulting pricing, promotion and merchandising implications.
  • Align strategies with shifting shopping patterns: Manufacturers should collaborate with key retail partners to understand retailers’ trip mission strategies and ensure assortment reflects dominant purchase patterns; retailers should clearly communicate trip mission strategy to key manufacturer partners and ensure assortment reflects dominant purchase patterns.
  • Measure and monitor success: Manufacturers should monitor brand contribution in retail partners’ attainment of plan goals, including trip mix and basket growth, as well as category and brand share; retailers should track share shifts across trip mission types at the store level at multiple points throughout the year and before/after major changes in advertising, pricing and promotion.

SymphonyIRI Times & Trends Webinar
SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar, entitled “CPG Basket: Fostering Growth in a Time of Conservation at 12 p.m. CT on Dec. 15. To register for the webinar, hosted by Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, please visit:


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