A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A CROSS-SHOPPER

Byline: Ira P. Schneiderman and Debra Grill

To illustrate the impact and commonality of shopping at different venues, we present the trials and tribulations of one particular consumer and the choices she makes. Mary Jones is heading out for an average day of shopping, which, due to the time limits of her lifestyle, is an activity of necessity and practicality rather than recreation. As we follow Ms. Jones on her excursion, we are reminded that an entire industry hangs on her vending choices, since she represents the typical modern-day American shopper.

Mary Jones is about to go shopping--cross-shopping--and an entire industry hangs on her shopping choices.
Mary is a 32-year-old staff assistant at an ad agency in New York. She lives with her husband, a sales rep, and two-year-old son on Long Island. Their combined income is $48,500 annually. Mary wants to buy a dress for a party and a new swimsuit. She has credit cards at Macy's and Penney's. Mary is not shopping with a specific budget in mind, but she has definite ideas on what particular items should cost.
Based on her having credit cards, her first shopping stop is Macy's at the mall nearest her home. She likes a $150 dress, but the store is out of stock on the color she wants. Disappointed, she takes a quick look at the swimwear and notes the price, $75. Too expensive, she thinks. Her next mall stop is J.C. Penney, where she finds a swimsuit for $50, and uses her charge card to pay for it.
Still in need of the dress, she is in the car and off to Annie Sez, an off-price specialty store, where she looks at dresses and finds a style she likes at $150. She remembers she could use a new sweatshirt for aerobics, and stops at Caldor, where she purchases one for $15.
Mary Jones is fictitious. But the shopping experiences of women like Mary is true to life.
Mary Jones is symbolic of the middle-class cross-shopper. She is the ideal department store customer in terms of income. lifestyle, age and education. She has credit at department stores and national chains. She routinely shops these stores, but her credit card does not make her a captive of these retailers. She does not spend most of her apparel dollars at these stores. She didn't buy the dress at the department store because they were out of stock, nor the swimsuit because she thought it was too expensive. She bought the swimsuit in a national chain, and the sweatshirt in a discount store, even though each of these retailers carry activewear.
Cross-shopping, or the purchase of different apparel items in different stores or retail channels, is here. Store loyalty for the lifetime apparel needs of any one consumer is a thing of the past. It may be that there has always been cross-shopping, but what is significant is that it has been a growing phenomena among department store and specialty store customers. Moreover, as the data shows, cross-shopping by higher income groups, the traditional department store customer, has increased with the growth of off-price retailers, factory outlets and alternative shopping methods like direct mail.
Cross-shopping is of particular concern to department and upscale specialty stores, because higher-income consumers buy disproportionally to their numbers in the population. More to the point, customers from households with income over $50,000 annually represent the largest share of department and specialty store customers. However, cross-shopping occurs at every type of retailer and by every age and income level.
What drives the customer to shop in one store for one item and in another for a different item? It would be nice to say that it is all a matter of demographics, that income or age are the only factors, or that the customer is solely responding to promotions or price. And what about the merchandise, the levels of quality, and style the assurance or confidence of brands? And lastly, as noted in earlier consumer studies published by WWD, what of the qualitative aspects of shopping such as perception of store service, convenience, merchandise, policies etc.?

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