Customers will judge stores on the quality of their staff in future, not the products they stock, says a new report from shopping research analyst HIM.
In its 10 predictions for 2010, the company suggests consumer loyalty will be driven by the people who work in stores. "Shoppers will want to see empowered, committed, motivated staff - customer-focused organisations will be the winners," says the report. "The store's biggest marketing power will be the staff themselves."
The report says that store owners will increasingly recognise that staff are their biggest asset, and that better staff standards will improve the perception of the industry. More people will shop locally than has been the case for a decade, it predicts.
Shoppers in 2010 are expected to demand a variety of payment options, including self-scanning, and they will not tolerate queues. As more and more meals are eaten out of the home and outside traditional mealtimes, customers will not put up with mid-afternoon or late evening out-of-stocks. Opening hours of 6am to midnight will be the norm in some areas, HIM concludes.

Tesco has told the Competition Commission Inquiry into the grocery market that it does not threaten competition on a local level, because consumers will drive up to 30 minutes to visit the store of their choice.

In its response to the Inquiry's Emerging Thinking, the supermarket giant suggests that the Inquiry's definition of 'local' is flawed as 'marginal' customers are prepared to travel a significant distance to a store with slightly lower prices than those close to their home.

Shane Brennan of the Association of Convenience Stores told Convenience Store that Tesco's response was not a surprise, and that the Commission should not take it at face value. He said: "Their suggestion that the grocery market should be viewed nationally rather than locally is incongruous with evidence in previous submissions. They seems to see consumers as one undifferentiated group, but not all consumers have that kind of mobility. We expect the Commission will adopt a more sophisticated definition."

Tesco's submission also states: "We do not vary our retail offer in line with levels of local competition. We and all the other major grocery multiples have national strategies on pricing, branding, advertising, quality, range and service."

The Inquiry team has stressed that it needs more submissions from retailers, suppliers and other stakeholders in order to reach its conclusions.

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