Supermarket Scene: Shopping Baskets (Not Carts) Filled with Cheap Store Brands

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According to a recent survey, 93% of grocery store shoppers say their habits have changed due to the recession. For the most part, the changes involve people choosing cheaper brands for necessities like shampoo and cereal (often generic store-brand products). Many shoppers are also simply buying less period, and to force themselves to do so, before browsing the aisles they’re picking up baskets rather than larger shopping carts—because there’s only so much that can fit in one of the baskets.

That’s the gist of an Economist story summing up the profile of today’s consumer, as well as the frustrations of huge consumer goods companies like Procter & Gamble trying to get these consumers to spend like they used to. Sometimes, efforts to attract cost-conscious consumers can backfire:

Terrified consumer-goods firms have cut costs and slashed prices. P&G launched a less expensive “basic” version of its Tide brand of washing powder, but then withdrew it because it was too popular.

Unfortunately, for many major-brand labels, the cat is out of the bag: The economic downturn has prodded consumers to try cheaper products, and what’s been discovered is that store brands often taste or work just as good as the big-name brands. Now that consumers know this first-hand through their own taste tests, it’s hard to imagine that all that many people would be willing to pay a premium for major-brand labels even after the economy kicks back into gear.