Global in design, ethnic in approach

If you are a regular shopper at the ‘national’ supermarket chains such as Countdown and New World, you may have reason to believe that you are being overcharged for items that should be available at much lower prices.

But Pak N Save always advertises as the Supermarket with the lowest food prices in the country. A 2.25 ml of Diet Coke for instance, may cost $4.19 in Countdown but could be purchased for $2.49 at a nearby Pak N Save and perhaps even cheaper in an Indian supermarket.

If you are in the market for your weekly shopping, you may be better off at places such as Moshims Plaza (Mt Roskill), Food 4 Less (Otahuhu and New Lynn), Food World (Mangere) and other Indian retail shops than the so-called big stores in the Auckland region.

Indian Supermarkets have grown throughout the big city and in increasing numbers in other parts of the country, especially in areas where Indians and other ethnic minorities do their shopping.

While the ubiquitous Diaries may not stock all your needs and may not be cost-effective), supermarkets of major Indian companies and mini-supermarkets such as Moshims Discount House in most areas (we call them Superettes) would satisfy the needs of Indian families. Increasingly, Maoris, Pacific Islanders and people of European extraction, who look for quality items at lower prices, also frequent these retail outlets.

Decompression Zone

Shoppers who visit various chain stores including Countdown, Pak N Save, Moshims and Food 4 Less would find that most of them are similar in the way in which they stock their products.

It is not because the companies that operate them lack imagination. It is because they are all well versed in the science of persuading people to buy things; a science that, thanks to technological advances, is beginning to unlock the innermost secrets of the consumer’s mind.

We have heard many readers telling us that it takes a while for them to get into the shopping mode even walking into their favourite supermarket.

This is why the area immediately inside the entrance of a supermarket is known as the ‘Decompression Zone.’ People need to slow down and take stock of the surroundings, even if they are regulars.

In sales terms, this area is a bit of a loss, so it tends to be used more for promotion. Even the multi-packs of beer piled up at Countdown or Pak N Save (many Indian supermarkets do not sell beer or wine) are designed more to hint at bargains within than to be lugged round the aisles.

As a routine, all supermarkets stock fruits and vegetables at the entrance.

Special Displays

Some shoppers say this makes no sense. Fruit and vegetables can be easily damaged, so they should be bought at the end, not the beginning of a shopping trip. But psychology is at work here: selecting good wholesome fresh food is an uplifting way to start shopping, and it makes people feel less guilty about reaching for the stodgy stuff later on.

Shoppers know that everyday items like milk are invariably placed towards the back of a store to provide more opportunity to tempt customers. This is why pharmacies are generally at the rear, even in ‘convenience stores.’

But there is a growing trend in Auckland for in-store pharmacies to be located in front, often as a separate entity.

Manufacturers and distributors of confectionaries, beverages and even household appliances persuade supermarkets to place their items halfway along a section so that people have to walk all along the aisle looking for them. The idea is to boost ‘dwell time,’ the length of time people spend in a store.

It is also common for supermarkets to charge a fee for such displays.

The Arrangement

Indian supermarkets follow the pattern set by their more affluent European counterparts. Having walked to the end of the fruit and vegetable aisle, shoppers arrive at counters of prepared food, the fishmonger, the butcher and the deli.

Then there is the in-store bakery, which can be smelt before it is seen. Mostly these bake pre-prepared items and frozen dough, and they have boomed even though central bakeries that deliver to a number of stores are much more efficient. They do it for the smell of freshly baked bread, which makes people hungry and thus encourages people to buy not just bread but also other food, including frozen stuff.

The ‘Bulk Foods Section,’ comprising dispensers of cashew nuts, walnuts, and other items attract buyers, although they may not be cheaper than those sold in sealed packets.

Shelf positioning is an important aspect of supermarkets, which play on consumer psychology. Branded products from big producers are always arranged at eye-level, with the supermarket’s own-label products, while cheaper ones may find themselves at a lower level.

While many stores reckon eye-level is the top spot, some think a little higher is better. Others charge more for goods placed on ‘end caps’, displays at the end of the aisles, which they reckon to have the greatest visibility.

Category sorting

Until a few years ago, Indian products imported and distributed by quality companies such as AB International were found under ‘Indian’ tag in the International Section of major supermarkets. But with the growth of Indian supermarkets and the popularity of the products, these now form a part of the general ‘Snack Goods’ section.

A wide range of ‘Indian Bread,’ including ‘Chapattis,’ and ‘Rotis’ and varieties of Chutneys are also included along with the specific categories.

Most manufacturers, importers and distributors rely on on-the-spot sampling at major supermarkets to promote a new product or simply push the existing ones even more. These would range from wines, beverages, pizzas and confectionery items to ready-to-eat meals and soaps.

Modern Technology

Technology is making the process of monitoring shopper behaviour easier, which is why the security cameras in a store may be doing a lot more than simply watching out for theft. Many of them, at least in the US, use image-recognition software to scan the pictures from security cameras of shoppers while they are making their selections. It is capable of looking at the actions of hundreds of thousands of people. It can measure how many went straight to one brand, the number that dithered and those that compared several, at the same time as sorting shoppers by age, gender and ethnicity.

Indian supermarkets are on a par with their mainstream counterparts in using computer technology to control inventory, place automatic orders with suppliers, prepare daily balance sheets and control cash flow with greater efficiency. As well as providing EFTPOS facility, many offer branded credit cards and money transfer facilities.

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