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Decision To Survey Only Fresh & Easy Customers Leads To Circular Reasoning

We’ve studied Fresh & Easy from all aspects. One observation about the current report is that it includes a fair amount of circular reasoning. For example, look at how the report deals with what consumers want:

The premise for the Fresh & Easy format is that customers want good quality fresh food at low prices in a local and easy format. Indeed the brand name was the result of one of Tesco’s initial focus group sessions; and so it is. Our own survey confirms that. When asked what’s important, consumers rate 6 attributes as absolutely key:

  • fresh produce;
  • friendly and helpful staff;
  • an easy and quick shop;
  • value for money;
  • a convenient location; and
  • low prices / special offers.

While we are thrilled to see fresh produce right up there, we were also a little perplexed by this data. Having done many of these studies over a long period of time, we were surprised for a moment to not see things such as a service deli, a butcher at the meat counter, a hot rotisserie or an in-store bakery showing up on this list as part of what good quality fresh food is all about.

Then we realized this reasoning is purely circular.

You offer a store concept that doesn’t have, say, a butcher, so consumers who value butchers don’t shop with your store. Then you survey the customers of the butcherless store who reconfirm that you are doing everything right and butchers are not high priorities!

Frankly these are things that should have been caught, but as Execution admits in the report: “We’re not US food retail analysts and so our expertise of the likely competitive situation really stops here.” Of course, if one is writing a report on a US supermarket chain, it might be helpful to hire an expert to sit in.

Of course, if you went to a store that focuses on its fresh made-to-order sandwiches, the customers will self-select to value that trait; if surveyed those customers might tell you it is the most important attribute of freshness in a supermarket.

Surveying only Fresh & Easy shoppers also wildly distorts evaluations of other retailers. Here is the kind of result these researchers report regarding quality and freshness:

“The first chart shows how each store’s primary grocery shoppers rate their store for quality and freshness of fresh produce. F&E leads with an average score of 9.3 out of 10 (the same score given by both all interviewees and primary shoppers at F&E).Tesco’s benchmark, Whole Foods, comes fourth with an average score of 8.8…”

Here is the kind of result these researchers report regarding price and quality:

“…F&E also leads the competition for low prices and overall value for money. F&E received an average score of 8.8 / 10 for low prices and 9.0 / 10 for value for money. As you might expect those doing the majority of their shop at F&E were even more positive, giving average scores of 9.2 for low prices and 9.4 for value for money. As a result F&E convincingly beat Wal-Mart for price and only Costco came close on overall value for money.”

This is, however, not a survey of a statistically valid sample of Whole Foods, Wal-Mart or Costco shoppers. This is a survey solely of consumers who shop at Fresh & Easy and who claim to be primarily shoppers with Whole Foods, Wal-Mart or Costco. Nothing in the methodology of this study confirms either that these people are, in fact, actually primarily shoppers of these other chains or how representative of those other chains’ consumers these Fresh & Easy shoppers actually are.

One also wonders, since this statistic only includes results from consumers who identify each banner as their primary shopping venue, how many consumers are included in the survey for each retailer.

Any good researcher would reveal the number of respondents for each chain and give the margin of error for the study. The failure to do so leaves one wondering if they just don’t know better or if they are more interested in publishing hyped-up conclusions than supporting them with rigorous analysis.

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