consumers, shopping

Nothing and everything in retail has changed. According to a survey released today by First Insight at the WWD Apparel & Retail CEO Summit in New York, while quality products and low prices remain key drivers in shopping decisions, retail executives might be misjudging the effect of a brand’s diversity and inclusion.

The consumer insights and technology company said the impact of offensive products is being overlooked.

The study points to a significant gap in perception of the impact of diversity and inclusion themes in shopping behavior. Retail leaders and consumers were aligned on the importance of women in senior leadership positions. However, while 54 percent of consumers said a chief diversity officer hire would benefit a company, 75 percent of senior retail leaders said they did not plan to make the hire.

Further, the survey showed 92 percent of the senior retail executives surveyed, felt that “consumers would continue to buy from their company even if they created and offered a controversial and offensive product if they pulled it from the shelves quickly and issued a public apology.” This is in huge contrast to only 27 percent of consumers saying they wouldn’t mind and would continue shopping at that retailer.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Greg Petro, chief executive officer of First Insight, “and as retailers and brands continue to work to align with new expectations of today’s consumer, whether it’s through extended sizing, cultural inclusion, hiring a chief diversity officer, or responding to and learning from missteps, retailers need to continue to be sensitive to the needs of the consumer.”

The study also points to a disconnect in price increases. Half of the consumers surveyed “believe prices of products online are increasing.” Only 38 percent of senior retail leaders matched this answer. And the perception of raising prices continued in-store, with 60 percent of consumers feeling in-store prices were increasing, and an even lower 35 percent of senior retail leaders reporting in-store price increases. “The data also shows that senior leaders need to stay invested in their day-to-day operations and stay connected with the voice of customers on quality and pricing of items,” said Petro.

Similar to First Insight’s report in 2018, a disconnect remains on the impact of pricing on purchase decisions. Though quality remains the most important purchasing factor to both senior retail leaders and consumers, 40 percent of consumers surveyed report low prices of a product are as important, compared with 23 percent of senior retail leaders. In contrast, 23 percent of retail leaders report convenience as important, compared with only 7 percent of consumers.

First Insight’s research was based on two separate surveys, with more than 1,000 targeted consumer respondents in September 2019.

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