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AISLE SURFING, YES; BASKET WEAVING, NO

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data from tracking devices attached to shopping carts at a West Coast supermarket, finding that:

· We zigzag, we don't weave. Traditional thought was that shoppers systematically weave up and down each aisle as they shop. Instead, we tend to randomly zigzag around to particular aisles, avoiding whole areas of the store.

· We zip in, zip out. Once we enter an aisle, we rarely make it to the other end. We like short excursions. As a result, products in the center of the aisle often are ignored.

· We like it right. Maybe it's because we drive on the right side of the road, but we like to enter on the right, or turn right after entering a store. We then prefer shopping in a counter-clockwise direction. Shoppers entering on the left spend less time (and money) shopping.

· We're racetrack drivers. We don't spend most of our time in the aisles. We stick to the perimeter of the store, often called the racetrack, using it as our main road with quick side trips to the aisles we need. This means products displayed at the ends of the aisles near the perimeter are important for luring us in.

Based on Internet surveys of 2,001 shoppers, the Food Marketing Institute's annual "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends" report found:

· We shop often. Shoppers as a whole go to the grocery store an average of 2.2 times a week, and nearly a third of us go three or four times a week. We spend an average of $92.50 per household each week. Hispanic families shop the most often -- six times a week.

· We shop at more than one place. More than half of shoppers report going to multiple stores. Although supermarkets are the primary place for buying groceries, more than 40 percent also shop at super-centers such as Wal-Mart and Target; one in four shoppers buy groceries at warehouse club stores such as Costco and BJ's Wholesale Club.

· We think the lines are too long. Those most unhappy with the speed of checkout lines at their supermarket: younger shoppers (in their teens through thirties), African Americans and single parents.

· We want it fresh. High-quality fresh produce and fresh meat are the top two things we consider when choosing a supermarket.

· We make a list. Fifty-four percent of us make a grocery list. Most likely to do this: women and older shoppers.

· We like self-checkout (but only if we're young): Younger shoppers say self-checkout is important. The older we are, the less we want to do it ourselves.

-- Candy Sagon

© 2005 The Washington Post Company