Shoppers Aren’t the Same Everywhere

Discussion
Jun 19, 2006
Al McClain

By Al McClain

While it’s no surprise that some people love to shop and some people hate to
shop, it may surprise you to learn that U.S. consumers do not enjoy “recreational”
shopping as much as those in some parts of the world, according to an online
ACNielsen study. In fact, while 74 percent of the world’s consumers admit to
shopping as entertainment, those shoppers most likely to do so are largely in
the Asia-Pacific region.

For Americans, 68 percent say they shop when they don’t really need anything,
while Asia-Pacific shoppers do so 84 percent of the time. And, Asia-Pacific
markets make up 9 of the top ten markets for recreational shopping.

ACNielsen Chief Marketing Officer Tom Markert says, “With the emergence of
a new middle class and new opportunities for spending in many developing markets
in Asia, it’s understandable that there is a huge enthusiasm in those regions
about shopping – far beyond that of the U.S. consumer, who may have a ‘been
there, done that’ view of the shopping experience.”

Recreational shopping is popular across the globe, as more than 50 percent
of shoppers shop just for something to do in all 42 markets surveyed. Latin
America is strong in this regard, while European customers are the least likely
to recreationally shop. Nine of the 10 “worst” recreational shopping markets
are in Europe.

TOP RECREATIONAL SHOPPING MARKETS

Hong
Kong

93%*

Indonesia

93

Singapore

90

South
Korea

89

Philippines

88

Malaysia

88

Thailand

86

UAE

84

China

84

Taiwan

83

*Combined percentage of respondents who shop “for something to do” twice a week
or more, once a week, once a month, or less than once a month

WORST MARKETS
% saying they never shop unless it’s necessary

Czech
Republic

50%

Austria

44

Hungary

43

Portugal

42

Spain

41

Denmark

36

Norway

35

Poland

35

U.K.

34

Brazil

34

The correlation between recreational shopping and personal finances is not
obvious, as 44 percent of Asian-Pacific shoppers rated their personal financial
outlook as “not so good” or “bad,” while for U.S. consumers the figure was only
36 percent. Meanwhile, 70 percent of American shoppers view grocery shopping
as a “necessary chore,” and 14 percent “loathe” shopping for clothes.

Moderator’s comment: Why do you think shopping apparently
is a more enjoyable experience in the Asia-Pacific area and Latin America than
it is in the U.S. and Europe? What opportunities are there for retailers to
put the “fun” back in shopping?

New and different = fun. My guess is there is more “new
money” in these areas, and shoppers are seeing new stores and having retail
experiences they’ve never had before. Also, Europe and the U.S. have older populations,
and older shoppers may be less inclined to browse or shop too much beyond what’s
necessary.

Al McClain – Moderator

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16 Comments on "Shoppers Aren’t the Same Everywhere"


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Michael Tesler
Guest
Michael Tesler
14 years 8 months ago

Thank you David Zahn!!!!! Why would anyone believe that any statement that begins with “survey results…” has any correlation with what really is going on, particularly in retailing. Everyone loves Paco Underhill and the key to his studies is that people don’t often tell the truth in part because, in relation to their retail habits, they don’t know the truth. Retailtainment in this country is soooo 1996…today it is about speed, convenience, and efficiency…we are thru with mall shopping and Far East is still doing it…we are in completely different place than Asian shoppers (not better just different) but if you want to learn more about that place please do not do a survey…just watch and listen!!!

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 8 months ago

The new experience suggests people have the money and therefore the economy is better, and growing.

The Chinese and Japanese are two groups that thrive on buying luxury and designer goods and services.

Didn’t have, and now have, through education, entrepreneurship and determination to be better! Sounds like the America of the past and its dream that many of us grabbed for… Hmmmmmm

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Historymystery and Bugme have the right idea – it’s culture. In Asian cultures, it is important to know what the latest styles, trends, and products are in any and every category. When it is time to purchase, they want the newest and latest. Spending leisure time with friends and/or family browsing and discussing the newest product entries is an important way of determining what are the latest and best products.

David Zahn
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

My guess here is that the results may be related to the fact that this is an ONLINE survey. Folks that would complete an online survey may be more time impoverished than those that do not stay online as long or visit sites where the survey could have been fielded.

I think if this was done in the mall where “brick and mortar” shoppers congregate, the results would have been different. This is pure conjecture…but I suspect there may be a correlation here.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 8 months ago
Just to add another thought into a mix with which I generally agree – think about the kind of places where the study’s participants are shopping. Stores. Malls. Probably big, bright, modern places with lots of racks and shelves and displays. Then think about novelty shopping and how much (relatively) time people who are travelling spend shopping – in street markets and small boutiques, buying souvenirs and things that will remind them of the country and its culture when they get home. Buying clothes in Asia is an amazing experience, nothing like buying them in a department store in the US or Europe. My husband arrived in Singapore with virtually the clothes on his back because we were going to summery Australia from English midwinter. Within half a day he had been fully kitted out and by the end of that day, everything altered and ready to either be collected or delivered to our hotel. Other shops would have started from scratch with patterns, measurements and bolts of fabric, delivering the following day. Now that’s… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Let me add one further angle to this discussion, as food for thought. Perhaps part of the difference in attitude about recreational shopping between countries is a matter of consumer lifecycles.

That is, as cultures absorb retail innovation at different paces, shopping as recreation may be a phenomenon that follows the classic “S” adoption curve, eventually leveling off as consumers attain certain familiarity with retail methods, as malls lose their comparative novelty, as value retail formats evolve, as worklife and leisure lifestyles evolve within the consumerist context.

Admittedly, this is a multi-part hypotheses. The ACNielsen data is offered without implications, and we BrainTrusters are offering several worthy possible interpretations. It would be interesting to examine the shopping-as-recreation adoption curves of various countries side by side over a period of years. Perhaps ACNielsen has such a project in mind.

Mitch Kristofferson
Guest
Mitch Kristofferson
14 years 8 months ago

At the risk of practicing arm-chair sociology, I would posit a short list of top-of-mind causes, many of which have already been discussed here:

1. Better shopping experience – better customer service.

2. “The market” as a place for fulfilling social interaction that may include tradition (“the mall” in the US doesn’t deliver that to most consumer segments).

3. Comparison relative to other available forms of entertainment and recreation – in the US we have almost every possible form of entertainment and recreation easily available – not so in other countries.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 8 months ago
I agree with BM239. We do have some stellar shopping experiences such as Whole Foods, IKEA and Apple that break the mold…we just don’t have enough. I personally feel that we are lacking shopping solutions to make our experiences more enjoyable. Why do we not have more entertainment for children so that parents can relax and take their time? Or, easy to use kiosks that offer up personalized products and incentives when I come into the store? How about an apparel brand that bothers to keep my measurements and suggest products so that I can have a rewarding — not frustrating — trip to buy a new outfit that fits me Sometimes I look around at US retailers and wonder why the most simplistic things are not done. It’s even more perplexing given that many of them do offer great services online…just not in the store. My gut is is that we will see many changes in the years ahead as our more innovative brands break the mold, build fabulous consumer experiences and force others… Read more »
Benjamin Munoz
Guest
Benjamin Munoz
14 years 8 months ago

One word to explain why 9 out of the top ten are in Asia… customer care! I’ve had the opportunity to shop in a few of those countries and my shopping experience has been outstanding. Beginning with the greeters at the entrance of the store that bow down to welcome you (it’s a ‘cultural’ thing), to the dress of the attendants, and degree of service from the store employees: always courteous and helpful. You feel welcomed and treated ‘like royalty.’

America? Well, good luck if someone asks you how you are doing… Employees, for the bulk of luxury good stores, act aloof and have a ‘you-know-you-can’t-afford-to-shop-here-so-why-are-you-wasting-my-time’ attitude. They seem inconvenienced when you ask for their help. Shopping in America is a hassle rather than an enjoyable experience…

Nordstrom is among one of the few retailers addressing this and consumers are rewarding them with sales and organic growth in a declining market.

Karen McNeely
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Perhaps the Asian-Pacific shoppers are more likely to rate their financial outlook “not so good” or “bad” BECAUSE they like to go shopping when they don’t really need anything!

Herb Sorensen
Guest
14 years 8 months ago
It’s way to broad to discuss “shopping” in a generic way. At a minimum, FMCG (fast moving consumer goods – like CPG) would be very distinct from something like fashion accessories. For the FMCG world, shopping is an interruption to life, not a part of it. As soon as a shopper enters the store, their overarching goal is to leave the store. During that interval, hopefully brief from the shoppers point of view, they want to get just what they need as efficiently as possible. This means that the less time they can spend in the store, the more likely they are to return to that store. They will gladly pay more to spend less time with an efficient process. And they will buy more if it doesn’t take them longer. In a supermarket, one out of six shoppers typically buy only a single item, with nearly a third buying only two items. Two thirds buy six or fewer items. Retailers have, by and large, done a very poor job of understanding just what those… Read more »
Mark Barnhouse
Guest
Mark Barnhouse
14 years 8 months ago
While many of the reasons listed by the moderator and other posters are quite good ones to explain the difference in behavior of Asian vs. non-Asian shoppers, I think the biggest difference has nothing to do with age, recent-ness of affluence, or income. It’s cultural. Americans have become, over the past few decades, far less likely to pursue leisure activities with large groups of friends. In his influential book “Bowling Alone,” Robert Putnam shows (using statistical analysis) how Americans have become more isolated from each other, beginning in the late 1960s. I don’t know if there is a correlation between this trend and the decline of American shopping malls as a place where people go for leisure shopping, but I suspect there may be one. Put simply: shopping alone is about as much fun for most people as bowling alone. Were I a retailer trying to attract more leisure-shoppers, I’d create ads that show large groups of friends together, having fun in the store, and I’d create more places within the store for these groups… Read more »
David Livingston
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

I think in some countries shopping is more fun when customer and retailer must negotiate the price of each item rather than have a fixed price. There is more interaction between the customer and retailer and often a stronger relationship is developed. This makes shopping more of a sport or recreational activity along with being a social activity. There is not much of a challenge to go into Wal-Mart and then breeze through the cash register. That’s too easy. Shopping is like dating….the fun is in the chase.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
14 years 8 months ago

As a former “shopper for entertainment,” I also wonder if it has more to do with an age correlation rather than income. Kids reduce both the time available to recreationally shop, and take the priority of shopping on the list. And it seems like the places that were hottest for recreational shopping also have the largest up-and-coming teen and young adult populations – the ones with the most disposable income and time.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 8 months ago

What an opportunity for retailers. In America, 68% say they shop when they don’t need anything. This is a huge number. This gives retailers the ability to establish a relationship with potential people to turn them from shoppers into consumers and more importantly, into customers.

Retailers need to focus on developing the customer experience. They need to remember that the experience is part sales and selling and part customer service. The retailers need to decide who and what they are and what they offer to the customer and then measure that they are giving those what they are promising.

If the only time a consumer were to come to a store was when they needed something, it makes garnering new customers more difficult.

This should be exciting news to retailers.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 8 months ago

Yes, younger people might find shopping more fun, and those whose standard of living is rising quickly would also find shopping more fun. Furthermore, the shopping experience in certain countries is often more personal, requiring significant personal bargaining, for example. Do people raised in a bargaining culture enjoy shopping more than others? Do people who buy from 1-person businesses enjoy the personal interaction more than people who buy from larger organizations?

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