National Researchers Study Wal-Mart's Impact on OKC Consumers

Article excerpt

It's midnight. And whether you need a car battery, baby formula or goldfish, there's one place consumers can count on - Wal-Mart. Statistics now show that Oklahoma City is not only in love with Wal- Mart, but even those who claim to hate the mega-superstore will go out of their way to shop there. National researchers now are asking why.

The why will be the focus of Chicago American Marketing Association's BrandSmart 2004 conference Thursday at The Summit Executive Centre in Chicago.

Last summer, Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago and Shapiro and Associates traveled to Oklahoma City, which was selected because Wal- Mart has the latest of all its formats here. The group's goal was to uncover the impact of the retail giant on consumers' shopping and brand attitudes and behaviors.

We decided that when you look at national figures for a Wal- Mart, you probably weren't getting the true story of what everybody talks about - the year 2010, said Paula Ausick, senior vice president and director of brand equities at FCB. And people are always talking about how we're going to compete in a Wal-Mart world in 2010.

While organizations high and low have discussed ad nauseum how to compete in the coming Wal-Mart world of 2010, few have tackled the consumer angle, she said, which is what sparked the study.

So we went to Oklahoma City because your demographics looked pretty good against the U.S. census. So you're the new Peoria. And we wanted to find out what happened to consumer behavior - how has the Wal-Mart impacted consumer behavior, Ausick said.

The company conducted qualitative focus groups among shoppers in the area, as well as a quantitative telephone survey of almost 400 people ages 16 and older about shopping in the metro. The group also talked to local retailers about the effect of Wal-Mart on their various businesses and advice they would give retailers about how to compete in a Wal-Mart world.

The group learned a number of surprising things in terms of what are the perceptions of Wal-Mart from a consumer angle.

While most people tend to think of a Wal-Mart shopper as an older individual with a low income, the study showed the most frequent Wal- Mart shoppers are Generation Xers, who now are having kids and starting families.

The traditional supermarket, Ausick said, is like dad's Oldsmobile - it's not the way to shop.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter does fulfill needs for people beyond just price, but it's also how they spend their time. They're making fewer trips overall in terms of shopping. Wal-Mart provides that one- stop shopping for them, she said. …