A perfect storm in trade promotions

More frequent, less deep promotions cause most shoppers to balk.

CPG and retailers that don’t refine their promotion strategies will face a tough ride in 2013. Food price hikes that grow dollar sales but impede unit volume force manufacturers to promote in order to move units.  It’s a costly way to retain or grow share—trade-spend is the #2 CPG expense after cost of goods at about 20% of gross sales.

Yet while CPG amps up its spend, 62% of retailers “take more margin on promotion than they did last year” and 46% move towards “more of a clean-floor policy,” limiting available space for shippers and displays, according to new research by AMG Strategic Advisors, a consulting unit of Acosta.  

The result:  higher prices for shoppers and less visual impact on the selling floor.  The situation isn’t pretty, imply findings of the report, A Shift in the Lift:  A Study of Key Factors Influencing Trade Promotion Effectiveness.  Despite a peak level of 43% of unit purchases in supermarkets in 2012 occurring on promotion—and nearly 60% in categories like ice cream and carbonated soft drinks—shoppers aren’t biting as readily as they once did.

Why?  Many households continue to struggle financially.  Two-thirds of shoppers (67%) tell Acosta they’re “buying less and sticking to a budget” these past six months.   Also, 59% say more than half of their shopping basket includes items on deal.  More than half polled (54%) say they’re buying fewer unplanned items on impulse.  And if prices aren’t where shoppers want them to be, they’ll often wait:  65% say they “expect certain products to be on sale and, if they are not, they will wait until they are on sale to purchase.” 

A few more key metrics:

  • Of 127 categories examined, 70% had a lower average promotional lift in 2012 than in 2011.  For the 52 weeks ended September 1, 2012, the average promotional-period lift was 95.5%, down three points from the 2010 level.
  • 67% of retailers advertise more digitally online than a year ago because younger shoppers tend to be less influenced by store circulars.  Also, 25% of manufacturers are shifting trade funds towards digital promotions.
  • The report anticipates that 75% of retailers will be either EDLP or in a hybrid EDLP/high-low price format within three years, supported by trade-spend that’s allocated to buy price down either everyday or long-term TPR.
  • TPO (Trade Promotion Optimization) solutions are being implemented more to drive goals beyond lift, such as better ROI, new-user trial or repeat purchases.
  • Shopper Marketing is expected to be 16% of total marketing spend.