Yes, Grocery Shopping Does Make You Feel Like You Have Your Life Together

If you’re anything like me, you understand the magic of treating your feelings to a little retail therapy.

Sure, sometimes it’s lipstick or a litany of foreign skincare products because #AdultAcne, but more often than not, for me, I love dropping my money on organizational and cleaning supplies.

I know. It’s really fun stuff.

Something about buying lilac laundry detergent and brand-spanking-new storage bins just makes me feel like I can tackle literally anything life might toss at me, you know?

As it turns out, I am actually not an anomaly when it comes to this kind of shopping behavior.

Aside from the usual clothing sprees that come with old-fashioned retail therapy, purchasing “utilitarian” products, like cleaning supplies or tools, is correlated with a person’s perceived level of control over their surroundings.

Recently published research in the Journal of Consumer Research illustrates, through a variety of studies, “how the fundamental desire for control affects product acquisition.”

Or, to put it another way, the level of “control” you feel you have in your environment affects the purchases you’ll make at the store.

The researchers in the study invited people entering a U.S. grocery store to participate in their experiment.

For one group of people, researchers randomly assigned participants to recall, “as vividly as possible,” a time when they felt they lacked control (think getting fired or stuck in a major traffic jam), and then asked them to write about it.

The other randomly assigned participants in the study were asked to recall and write about a time they felt really on top of things (such as acing your driver’s test).

Participating researchers Andy J. Yap and Charlene Y. Yen clarified their research in an article for INSEAD Knowledge:

Loss of control doesn’t mean being out of control or lacking self-discipline.

It refers to the everyday, fundamental experience of being unable to produce a desired outcome in a given environment.

So, in the study, on the way out of the store, the participating customers were asked to turn in their receipts.

And the results were pretty damn interesting.

Those who recalled an experience of low control spent nearly double the amount of money on products like cleaning supplies as counterparts in the other group.

Another one of the studies again involved a group that recalled experiences of being in control, a group that recalled being out of control, and a “baseline” group primed with neither of these recalls.

After being shown advertisements of different sneakers characterized as either functional or stylish, the “control-deprived” group, as they called it, communicated a much stronger desire and intention to purchase the functional sneakers, and were willing to pay more for them.

According to the researchers, it seems that when customers recall a time when they felt like they lacked control, they’re more likely to feel a need to “solve problems,” and their purchases reflect that drive.

As the researchers put it, buying those functional products helps “to restore psychological equilibrium.”

Plus, when you think about it, it’s actually a pretty harmless, effective coping mechanism for dealing with that feeling of losing control of your life.

Or, you know, the entire phase of adulthood, if you ask me.

Source: Elite Daily

Grocery shopping, the Amazon way

It’s tempting to imagine the merger of Amazon and Whole Foods as fodder for a technological experiment: What if you could simply ask Alexa for organic kale and have it delivered by drone in minutes?

But in the days since the tech giant announced it was buying the grocery store chain, experts in the food industry have begun to speculate about the cultural implications of the sale, and what a merger of Amazon’s customer-centric ethos with Whole Foods’ high-minded approach to food might look like.

Grocery stores have generally lagged behind other retailers when it comes to innovation, said David VanAmburg, managing director for the American Customer Satisfaction Index. “But if the Whole Foods side of our shopping and consumer experience can be made as timely and as efficient and satisfying as what the Internet has done for the rest of our retail shopping experience,” he said, “culturally it could be huge.”

Long before we see drones taking off from Whole Foods’ rooftops, however, we’re likely to see the expansion of Amazon’s Prime memberships, VanAmburg said, enabling people who pay the $99 annual fee to get access to in-store coupons, deals, and better prices at Whole Foods than nonmembers.

And while that might not seem much different from a traditional supermarket loyalty program, the distinction comes from Amazon’s deep understanding of shoppers’ habits. After all, this is the company that just incorporated its Alexa artificial intelligence technology into its fridge-friendly Dash Wand device, allowing you to both speak and scan barcodes to update your grocery list.

Amazon dominates the Web in online sales, but getting information about our in-store purchases has always been beyond its reach. Now, if Amazon knows that you bought eggs and peanut butter from the physical store, it could ping you when it suspects you’re about to run out. And if you’re too busy to get to the store? It will happily replenish your pantry with a delivery from Amazon Fresh, the company’s existing grocery delivery and pickup service.

(Whether those deliveries would come from Whole Foods or other sources remains to be seen.)

“It has that sort of cool and creepiness factor,” VanAmburg said, and it forces us to wonder: “How much do we want to let [Amazon] know about us for the sake of convenience?”

Doug Rauch believes we’re willing to let companies know quite a bit. The former president of Trader Joe’s, who now runs the Daily Table grocery store in Dorchester, said that Amazon’s “maniacally customer-focused” culture has already changed our shopping habits, in part because the company’s data collection benefits the consumer, such as with the “related items” and “customers also bought” suggestions online.

With personalized digital insights, Rauch said, the “treasure hunt” aspect of grocery store shopping, or the ability to lure customers into making impulse purchases, can begin much earlier, with e-mails about new products available in-store or online. “There might be a whole new relationship created with the customer and their food that may not have been crafted so easily or quickly,” he said.

One possibility? A hybrid Whole Foods/Amazon store model might make picking out sundries far less cumbersome (particularly if you dread weaving a cart up and down the aisles). Shoppers have been hesitant to buy perishable items online, but Rauch envisions a system in which they pick out dry goods in advance — think boxes of Hamburger Helper or tuna fish cans — and then show up at the store to select meats, dairy items, fruit, and vegetables. At the check-out, the tuna and other such items are prepackaged and waiting.

The question that has been asked widely among industry insiders is whether Amazon’s approach to pricing will bring down Whole Food’s sky-high receipts. After all, Whole Foods is the store that the public loves to shop at but hates to pay for. So can Amazon democratize the Whole Foods experience without sacrificing their standards?

Early signs say yes. And no.

William Masters, an economics professor at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said that the core values Whole Foods promotes — like its focus on high-quality natural and organic products, environmental stewardship and healthy eating, and its relationships with suppliers — might take a hit.

“Chef Alice Waters published an open letter saying I sure hope you double down on the agenda and scale up the practices that we associate with Whole Foods,” Masters said. “My guess would be in an effort to reach scale, which is Amazon’s calling card, that they would do precisely the opposite.”

Instead, he expects to see a broader range of products in stores that may not be local, organic, or sustainable. That would help bring down prices, as would the behind-the-scenes mechanisms that Amazon employs in its supply chain, like warehouse automation and buying in bulk. Another component that would help cut the prices consumers pay? Amazon’s ability to manipulate prices depending on circumstances: upselling for home delivery, for example, or trimming costs when a shopper places a recurring grocery order.

There is proof that as part of its effort to take on Walmart, Amazon has begun to focus on targeting a demographic with far less spending power than a typical Whole Foods shopper. Shortly before news of the Whole Foods deal broke, the company announced it was creating a low-cost Prime membership for $5.99 a month for people who use government food-assistance programs.

Some, like John Foraker, president of the organic food company Annie’s Inc., suggested this could solve the problem of“food deserts” by allowing healthy food to reach a much wider audience, and at lower prices.

“When you combine [Amazon’s] delivery infrastructure with Whole Foods’ 450+ stores and organic food supply chain, you enable the delivery of natural and organic foods to most places in the US in a matter of an hour or two,” he wrote in the days following the announcement.

And it makes financial sense, said Jason Chung, a senior research scholar at NYU’s Sports and Society program, who points out that Whole Foods’ decision to open in lower-income neighborhoods in Harlem, N.Y., and New Orleans was met with enthusiasm from analysts. “They have a business model, and I think they have the logistics expertise. They also have a business imperative to do so.”

But farmers remain skeptical that such measures won’t cut into their own margins.

Dave Chapman, an organic farmer in New Hampshire who sells his tomatoes at Whole Foods, worries that Amazon will drag down the company’s principles in pursuit of lower prices.

“My concern is that rather than using brilliant innovation to figure out the needs people have, they might fall into the trap of competing with Walmart,” he said. “It reduces the quality so you can reduce the price.”

An Amazon spokesperson said the company plans to continue to work with farmers.

“We will want Whole Foods to keep doing what it does best, including working with small farms and producers to bring the best natural and organic foods to customers,” the spokesperson said.

Over time, the biggest impact may be in the way Amazon gradually shifts the way shoppers feel about patronizing Whole Foods. Perhaps offering better service, lower prices, or a mission that offers greater access to a wider swath of the public will create a different emotional response in customers, as opposed to the knee-jerk guilt or exasperated sticker shock that many experience at the register.

In short, can Amazon help us to hate ourselves a bit less when we fill up our reusable bags at the checkout?

Source: The Boston Globe

Kroger sues Lidl as grocery wars get ugly

If you thought Kroger was just going to idly sit by and let another foreign grocery chain move in and take its customers, you would be mistaken.

Kroger is vigorously defending its turf, not just through price wars, but by suing the upstart German grocery Lidl.

Lidl luring more price-conscious shoppers

The discount grocer Lidl recently opened its first stores in the U.S., in Virginia in the Carolinas.

It plans to roll out 80 more in the next two years, according to Fortune Magazine, with deep discount prices similar to Aldi, another European chain invading the U.S.

It has grown remarkably fast in Europe, Fortune reports, appealing to price-conscious shoppers who just want to pay the lowest prices.

‘Private Selection’ vs ‘Preferred Selection’

Kroger’s suit concerns Lidl’s premium house brand, “Preferred Selection.”

If that sounds a bit familiar, Kroger says it is because it very closely resembles Kroger’s premium house brand, “Private Selection.”

Kroger says the name would allow Lidl to compete unfairly, because customers would assume the two brands are similar, but might buy Lidl’s selections due to the lower prices.

Kroger is suing for trademark infringement, saying its brand has been trademarked for 20 years, while Lidl filed a trademark for its similar name only last September, according to a report in Business Insider.

Neither store is commenting on the lawsuit.

Price wars break out

Kroger is now fighting a multi-front war for customers, battling not just Walmart, but now European grocers Aldi and Lidl.

That explains recent price wars, such as Kroger’s decision to lower the price of a gallon of milk to 99 cents in some areas where it competes directly with an Aldi store.

The good news for shoppers is that all this competition is bound to lower prices even more.

You can expect many more price wars in the months to come, so you don’t waste your money.

 

Source: WCPO.com

Pop-Ups, Markets Generate Big Bucks For Retailers

When shoppers at the Artists & Fleas market in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood try to haggle over prices with bag designer Pamela Barsky, she offers the following proposition: Guess the rent on her 10-by-10-foot booth, and she’ll grant a discount.

No one comes close to guessing to the astonishing figure: $7,300 a month.

On a square-foot basis, that’s more than the average rent for retail space in prime Manhattan shopping districts such as SoHo and Herald Square.

But it’s worth it, says Ms. Barsky. Her monthly sales range from $40,000 to $100,000, topping the revenue per square foot of many of the nation’s top retail chains.

The tiny stand, in fact, generates enough revenue to pay 15 full-and part-time employees, including the crew printing and sewing her canvas bags at her Chinatown production shop.

“It’s serious money,” she says.

These are tough times for brick-and-mortar retail. Stores are closing locations at a record pace, while chains including the Limited and American Apparel are going belly-up.

New York City’s flea markets, holiday markets, farmers markets, night bazaars and art fairs, however, continue to draw big crowds.

If it’s sold from a stall or a folding table, it seems, shoppers can’t get enough of it.

Eric Demby, co-founder of market empire Brooklyn Flea, says he’s seeing higher demand for vendor slots, and attendance at food-market spinoff Smorgasburg in Prospect Park doubled from last year, to 15,000 each Sunday.

Jen Bailey, director of FAD Market, a weekend showcase for independent artists and designers that pops up in locations around Brooklyn—including the Brooklyn Historical Society this Saturday and Sunday—says that since launching a year ago, vendor numbers doubled and attendance tripled, to 2,000 visitors a day.

The market’s appeal is so strong, she says people volunteer to set up tables, hand out fliers and greet shoppers.

“People want to be a part of it,” Ms. Bailey says.

Artists & Fleas, meanwhile, is opening a new, 5,000 square-foot market on Friday at the prime retail intersection of Prince Street and Broadway in SoHo, the former home of an Armani Exchange.

Co-founders Ronen Glimer and Amy Abrams say artisan markets are thriving because shoppers are hungry for unique goods, not to mention connection.

They choose their merchants based not just on their wares, but personality. A key question: “Is this a fun person?”

On peak days, their Chelsea location attracts up to 10,000 shoppers. That in turn draws merchants willing to pay $65,000 a year for a 50-square-foot booth.

“We might as well be baleen whales scooping up krill,” says jewelry maker Cynthia Rybakoff, who sells her sleek designs at the market. “We don’t have to work that hard to bring people in.”

On a good day, she says she sells up to 100 pieces, typically priced between $35 and $70.

“There is no advantage to having a storefront other than vanity,” Ms. Rybakoff says.

Artists & Fleas merchant Andrew Cheung, who says he averages $50,000 in sales a month on his line of whimsical men’s accessories including T-Rex socks and boxers shorts, adds that if an item isn’t selling well, it’s not for lack of traffic.

“It’s instant judgment day,” he says. “You get a lot of feedback just by the sheer number of people walking by.”

Of course, the market isn’t a good fit for everyone. Mr. Cheung says that while he has zero interest in opening a storefront, it would allow more freedom.

At Artists & Fleas, management reviews and vets every vendor’s merchandise mix and marketing efforts. There’s a one-time $500 “marketing and merchandising fee,” and a $25 fine if you don’t staff your booth during market hours.

Moreover, everyone has to live with the occasionally quirky choices of the in-house DJ.

“Like experimental German jazz,” Ms. Barsky says.

But she’s content to remain a humble market merchant.

“Everyone assumes we’re not a real business, which is kind of a lovely way to be,” Ms. Barsky says. “You don’t feel like the man. But you’re making money like the man.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Aldi is unleashing a billion-dollar price war — and it should terrify Walmart

The discount grocery chain Aldi is taking aim at Walmart with its billion-dollar plan to lower prices, redesign existing stores, and expand its footprint.

Reuters reported Thursday that Aldi plans to sell more items under its in-house brand, which keeps prices low for customers.

Aldi CEO Jason Hart told Reuters that Aldi’s prices are 21% cheaper than competitors like Walmart.

The chain is also planning to open 400 new stores by the end of next year, according to Reuters.

Aldi is spending $1.6 billion to implement a new store design in 1,300 of its 1,600 US stores, Bloomberg previously reported.

The German-owned grocery chain debuted the new design in October at a store in Richmond, Virginia. The Aldi store has softer lighting than its older stores, as well as a larger fresh produce section, wider aisles, and electronic displays on the walls.

Here’s what it looks like:

The new Aldi store looks similar to its older stores on the outside.

The new Aldi store looks similar to its older stores on the outside.

But stepping inside, it feels much different. The lighting is softer and more natural, and the aisles are wider.

But stepping inside, it feels much different. The lighting is softer and more natural, and the aisles are wider.

Permanent eye-level shelving fixtures are everywhere in the new store. In the older stores, shown below, many items are stacked on top of each other in cardboard boxes instead of placed on shelves.

Permanent eye-level shelving fixtures are everywhere in the new store. In the older stores, shown below, many items are stacked on top of each other in cardboard boxes instead of placed on shelves.

Spotlights in the new store help make the fresh produce section a central focus.

Spotlights in the new store help make the fresh produce section a central focus.

The produce area is much larger than in Aldi’s other stores.

The produce area is much larger than in Aldi's other stores.

Like in other stores, most of the produce is sold in bulk packaging.

Like in other stores, most of the produce is sold in bulk packaging.

It looks similar to this 365 by Whole Foods store in Los Angeles, which is about the same size as Aldi and also features metal, eye-level shelving fixtures and a centrally located produce section.

It looks similar to this 365 by Whole Foods store in Los Angeles, which is about the same size as Aldi and also features metal, eye-level shelving fixtures and a centrally located produce section.

At the new Aldi, there’s a large refrigerated section devoted to produce.

At the new Aldi, there's a large refrigerated section devoted to produce.

Fruit, salad greens, and vegetables are available, as well as premade dips and soups.

Fruit, salad greens, and vegetables are available, as well as premade dips and soups.

There’s no deli at the Aldi store, but there are tons of packaged cheeses and meats to choose from.

There's no deli at the Aldi store, but there are tons of packaged cheeses and meats to choose from.

Digital displays and lit signs everywhere promise quality and freshness.

Digital displays and lit signs everywhere promise quality and freshness.

Refrigerators line the store.

Refrigerators line the store.

Aldi also sells home goods like pillows and holiday decorations.

Aldi also sells home goods like pillows and holiday decorations.

Aldi currently represents only 1.5% of the U.S. grocery market versus Walmart’s 22%, according to Reuters, but its sales represent a growing threat. Reuters reports that sales at Aldi are growing at a rate of 15%, while sales at Walmart are only expected to grow 2% in 2017.

Union’s ‘Expose Walmart’ tour launches in Phoenix

A union that represents thousands of grocery and retail works launched a national tour Monday in Phoenix to draw attention to Walmart’s wages and the thousands of police calls to its mega stores that are costing local taxpayers each year.

The Expose Walmart tour is led by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million professionals in the United States, according to its website.

The Phoenix kickoff began downtown at the Calvin C. Goode Municipal Building, and featured elected officials from the city, county and state.

Rep. Richard Andrade, D-Glendale, was among those who addressed about 50 protesters, many of whom held blue picketing signs with Walmart’s signature smiley face distorted into a frown.

Andrade, speaking as what he described as a “union brother,” said he was concerned that Phoenix Walmart stores ranked as three of the top five addresses in the city to generate calls to police.

“We all know the city of Phoenix, as well as many Arizona cities, are experiencing a police shortage,” he said. “So (by) Walmart refusing to address these issues, that means these police officers — who should be in our community — are busy responding to incidents at Walmart …”

Andrade and other officials cited a December report in The Arizona Republic that showed how three Phoenix Walmart stores made up the No. 1, 3 and 4 locations with most calls to police between 2011 and mid-2016.

Critics say Walmart relies too heavily on taxpayer-funded police, while other big-box stores deploy more rigorous in-house security measures.

Walmart officials at the time of the report said new security policies are being enacted around the country, including more employees at the entrance and a new diversion program that would spare police calls for certain low-level offenders.

On Monday, Walmart Director of Corporate Communications Blake Jackson credited the diversion program, Restorative Justice, for a 35 percent drop in Walmart calls to police nationwide. Additionally, he said, the recidivism rate for those who complete the program hovers at about 2 to 3 percent.

“The upshot there is it’s working, it’s effective, and we’re getting good feedback from law enforcement across the country,” he said.

After a few speeches on Monday, the tour marched protesters three blocks away to the Phoenix Police Department. Parked near the entrance was a large sign that read, sarcastically, “Walmart Security Headquarters.”

“We want to thank the Phoenix Police Department for doing Walmart’s job,” Phoenix Councilwoman Kate Gallego said among cheering protesters. “Walmart is forcing city of Phoenix taxpayers to pay for security costs that Walmart should be paying itself.”

Organizers said the Expose Walmart tour will visit 30-plus cities in 22 states around the country, concluding at Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Ark., on June 2.

Amy Ritter, director of communications for the UFCW’s campaign “Making Change at Walmart,” said the tour’s unifying theme is “corporate welfare,” and how taxpayers are forced to subsidize the megastore and its workers.

The tour cited a 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness that found the state paid $143 million in public assistance for Arizona Walmart employees.

Jackson, the Walmart spokesman, said the group’s claims don’t tell the whole story, and noted that the retailer is a significant taxpayer in the community itself. He said the Arizona stores collected $270.3 million in sales tax and paid $91.5 million in state taxes.

When asked about wages, Jackson said the company has made strides in the past few years in investing in their employees. He said hundreds of thousands of employees have taken advantage of the new training opportunities.

“We are staunch believers in that when our people succeed, our business succeeds,” he said. “And our customers are telling us that they’re liking what they’re seeing.”

Ritter said the tour would feature city-specific grievances on their stops as well. While Phoenix drains police resources, she said, events in other cities could feature low-paid employees and racially-based security practices like locking up hair-care products aimed at African-Americans.

“Walmart doesn’t pay its workers a living wage,” she said. “(Employees aren’t) being trained properly, and they don’t invest enough in the stores. If they did the right thing, Walmart would get off of corporate welfare.”

The UFCW has been a frequent critic of Walmart, particularly when it comes to the wages it pays it workers and practices it says the company takes to discourage unionizing among Walmart workers.

Walmart Workers in Pennsylvania celebrate class-action lawsuit victory

On Jan. 24, Making Change at Walmart held a press conference in Harrisburg, Pa., to draw attention to  more than 187,000 current and former Walmart workers throughout Pennsylvania who won a $241.1-million class-action lawsuit against the retail giant.

The case originated in 2002, when former Philadelphia Walmart worker Michelle Braun filed a lawsuit against all Pennsylvania Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, alleging that the company failed to compensate workers for off-the-clock work hours and prevented employees from taking or completing their rest or meal breaks.

In 2004, Dolores Hummel, who was employed as a cake decorator at Walmart in Reading, Pa., filed a class action lawsuit presenting allegations similar to Braun’s 2002 complaint.

In 2005, the two lawsuits were combined and certification as a class action was granted by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. The “class” consisted of all current and former employees of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in Pennsylvania from 1998 to 2006, totaling approximately 187,000 people.

Although a jury returned a decision in favor of the plaintiffs in 2006, Walmart appealed the case for years.

The current and former Walmart workers began receiving payments last December, and the award includes $88 million in interest.

Union leaders agree that Walmart’s attempt to cheat, deny and delay millions of dollars of income earned by workers that were forced to work off the clock has finally been defeated. They said that this historic judgment provides hope and inspiration to thousands of workers who continue to be mistreated, unappreciated and undervalued at Walmarts all across America.  

German chains spark price war

Competition from no-frills grocery companies based in Germany — fast-growing Aldi and domestic newcomer Lidl — is encroaching on Walmart’s grocery business, which accounts for more than half of its revenues in the United States, analysts said.

All of these non-union companies are a direct threat to union stores.

Aldi has said it will expand its U.S. footprint to nearly 2,000 stores by the end of 2018, an increase of almost 50 percent in five years.

Both Lidl and Aldi run their stores with limited product variety and ultra-low prices. In addition to food items, Lidl also sells merchandise like apparel and home goods.

Olympic Medical Center Home Health workers ratify contract

Members of UFCW Local 21 who work at Olympic Medical Center Home Health in Port Angeles, Wash., ratified a new contract on Feb. 27. The agreement covers about 60 workers and includes wage increases, an extra floating holiday and additional education money. 

“This contract will help recruit and retain quality staff and allow members to better serve the needs of their patients,” a union official said.

Alleged discrimination at Walmart

Making Change at Walmart reported in December that Walmart stores in Virginia added an extra layer of security to hair products typically used by African Americans.

“Hair products used by non-African Americans were placed normally on shelves, while products typically used by African Americans were secured in plastic boxes that cashiers had to unseal,” a representative of the pro-union group said.

Making Change at Walmart aired a television commercial in areas near the affected stores showing packages of women’s hair dye featuring Caucasian models that were easily within reach and without plastic coverings.