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Shoppers Now Put Priority On Value Over Convenience - Survey

By Andria Cheng Shoppers looking for a bargain in a tough economy may be shifting priorities, willing to put up with some inconvenience in order to get a better price or a better product, a survey shows. More than a year after the fallout of the financial markets that led to an unemployment rate near 10%, American consumers, in a fundamental behavioral change seen for the first time in at least 10 years, are willing to trade their time and forfeit good service. In return, they want a product they perceive offers them some value, according to a fourth-quarter survey of 8,000 shoppers by advisory firm Alix Partners, which has conducted similar studies on consumer mindsets since 1999. For the first time, service--whether it's shopping in channels from department stores and electronics retailers to shoe stores and discounters--became the least important priority while product and price surged to the top and became even more crucial, the survey showed. "The time-starved consumers have been the marching order for the last two decades," said Matthew Katz, who heads retail practice at Alix Partners, in an interview. "We've talked about 'I need to speed her to the checkout and I need to get her closest to the parking lot.' Today, for value, consumers are willing to cede time, service and experience. They are willing to wait in line a little longer or drive that extra two miles," he said. Across the board, so-called value--what Katz defined as a cross between product and price--has been the singsong of retailers from discounter Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) to luxury retailer Saks Inc. (SKS). Giving consumers more bang for their buck, whether it's by introducing lower-priced products within Saks's designer collections or by J.C. Penney Co.'s (JCP) exclusives, such as American Living by Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. (RL), retailers each in their own way are seeking that perfect mix that they think will entice shoppers to open their wallets. "The intersection of price and product is driving consumer behavior," Katz said. "There's been this magnetic pull to value. Price is important even at the luxury level." As a result, consumers also are shopping different retailers and across more channels to get what they think is the best deal, according to the report to be released Wednesday. For instance, a quarter of respondents in the survey ranked Wal-Mart as one of their top three choices when they buy books, when the retail heavyweight didn't even make the top five list 18 months ago. Wal-Mart, Target Corp. (TGT) and Inc. (AMZN) made the top five list for consumers considering electronics purchases. None made the list 18 months earlier when the last survey was conducted, Katz said. Retailers such as mid-priced retailer Kohl's Corp. (KSS) and off-price retailer Stein Mart Inc. (SMRT) have also scored high in the consumer survey as their product assortment and price resonate with shoppers, Katz said. "Retailers have to understand the consumer is highly educated and efficient and acceptable of alternative channels," Katz said. "They have given consumers an appetite to explore new channels." -Andria Cheng; 415-439-6400; [email protected]

Stock News for Stein Mart (SMRT)
03/24/201711:30:52Initial Statement of Beneficial Ownership (3)
03/16/201707:30:00Stein Mart to Present at Sidoti & Company Spring 2017 Convention
03/14/201717:30:53Current Report Filing (8-k)
03/14/201715:13:03Stein Mart, Inc. Declares Quarterly Dividend
03/08/201708:02:16Current Report Filing (8-k)
03/08/201707:30:00Stein Mart, Inc. Reports Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2016 Results
03/02/201711:14:14Statement of Changes in Beneficial Ownership (4)
02/24/201717:03:06Amended Current Report Filing (8-k/a)
02/23/201711:12:12Statement of Changes in Beneficial Ownership (4)
02/22/201716:53:55Stein Mart Reports Inducement Grant Under NASDAQ Listing Rule...
02/16/201708:00:00Stein Mart Announces Five New Stores Opening This Spring
02/15/201718:54:48Statement of Changes in Beneficial Ownership (4)
02/15/201718:41:37Statement of Changes in Beneficial Ownership (4)
02/13/201710:36:45Amended Statement of Ownership (sc 13g/a)
02/09/201707:30:00Stein Mart Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2016 Earnings...
02/08/201718:54:14Initial Statement of Beneficial Ownership (3)
01/30/201709:32:21Current Report Filing (8-k)
01/27/201706:05:05Amended Statement of Ownership (sc 13g/a)
01/26/201716:15:00Stein Mart Appoints MaryAnne Morin as President
01/18/201713:36:36Amended Statement of Ownership (sc 13g/a)

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