Shoppers Face Fewer Choices as Brands Consolidate
By April Fowell
Many businesses are reducing the variety of their offerings. For one, Coca-Cola has recently discontinued half of its different types of drinks, yet there are still 200 to choose from to date. However, some big brands are cutting down on what they're offering.
Stew Leonard's, a supermarket chain operating in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, has reduced its cereal offerings from 49 flavors or types in 2019 to 24 currently.
Similarly, Edgewell Personal Care Co., known for products like Schick razors and Banana Boat suntan lotion, has streamlined certain varieties of its anti-bacterial wipes, including Wet Ones. Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, has also opted to decrease its assortment, planning to eliminate some of the six different types of mayonnaise it previously stocked.
CEO of Dollar General, Todd J. Vasos, remarked to analysts in December that consumers are unlikely to notice the difference and that it may even simplify their shopping experience.
A year ago, the Clifton, New Jersey Kohl's shop had dress racks full of a variety of designs and tables piled high with sweaters and shirts in every hue under the sun. It now boasts a more streamlined approach, with many dress racks featuring only three or four options and tables with narrow heaps of knit shirts that highlight fewer colors.
Kohl's, under the leadership of its new CEO Tom Kingsbury, has implemented strategies to streamline its product offerings by reducing the colors and variations of items such as sweaters and jeans. Additionally, the company has increased the frequency of buyer visits to the New York market to introduce fresh and trendy merchandise.
CEO Tom Kingsbury explained to analysts in a call in November that the company previously faced challenges with goods taking too long to arrive and underperforming in the market. By utilizing the marketplace and adopting a more agile approach, Kohl's aims to respond swiftly to business trends and consumer demands.
Shift Towards Simplification in Consumer Choices
A few clients are pleased with the current adjustments. There are few options available to consumers, even in the auto industry. Ford and General Motors have both made a point of highlighting how they are reducing the amount of option choices available to consumers on their cars in an effort to simplify the production and purchasing processes.
This is in contrast to a few years ago, when there was an overwhelming amount of options, partly due to internet buying that didn't consider physical space limitations. However, that didn't always translate into sales, so a year or two prior to the epidemic, businesses began to reduce their offerings.
The epidemic didn't slow down the trimming process; businesses prioritized essentials while resolving supply chain bottlenecks. However, several firms concluded that less was better even after the epidemic, when commodities started circulating freely again. They rationalized the restricted range by claiming that customers don't want as much choice as they did. Because there are less leftovers that need to be discounted, it is also more beneficial for businesses.
According to market research firm Circana, the percentage of new products in stores in 2023 was around 2%, representing products in categories including toys, technology, footwear, and cosmetics, compared to 5% in 2019.
The epidemic provided "a really valuable stimulus," according to Eric O'Toole, head of Edgewell's North America business, for reevaluating assortment.
Studies indicate that having fewer options rather than a wide range actually encourages customers to make larger purchases, which is why many believe they are also benefiting consumers.
Sheena Lyengar and Mark Lepper, two psychologists, conducted a research in 2000 that demonstrated that fewer options are better for consumers. In their trial, Lyengar and Lepper discovered that even while customers were more likely to stop at the display giving a wider selection, they were 10 times more likely to buy jam on display when there were just 6 jams offered instead of 24. Studies conducted later have validated this finding.