Consumers' perceptions of the competitive tiers in six grocery markets
By the early 1980's the pressures of increased retailer dominance resulted in some manufacturers reducing brand investment. Concurrently own label investment increased, amid speculation about a blurring between brands and own labels. Generics were launched in 1977, but showed evidence of retailer branding. Consequently this research was undertaken to - assess how consumers perceive the competitive structure of 6 packaged grocery markets and - identify how consumers' perceptions of market structure are influenced by marketing activity (external factors) and consumer characteristics (internal factors). Within a consumer information processing paradigm, hypotheses were advanced. Repertory grids identified the attributes consumers use to evaluate competing tiers and the numerous attributes were reduced by examining the correlations between attributes, in conjunction with principal component analysis. These attributes formed attribute-brand batteries which were used, with colour photographs of the competing items, in a postal survey of householders to measure respondents' perceptions. A 48.5% response was acheived (1,065 returns) and using cluster analysis (single link algorithm) the compositions of the hierarchical clustering schemas were investigated. Consumers' perceptions only matched marketers' in the washing up liquid sector (brands vs own labels vs generics) and at the 2 tier level, all 6 product fields were perceived as brands versus retailer labels (own labels plus generics). These perceptions are thought to be due to the way retailers branded their generics. None of the external or internal factors affected consumers' perceptions, possibly due to the superficial information search resulting from the low involvement nature of the products. To avoid consumers predominantly switching from own labels to generics, future retailers marketing generics should not brand their generics. Manufacturers should invest in their brands through advertising and product development and should refrain from launching value brands. Grocery brand advertising is unlikely to be effective if it portrays the potential social risks associated with own labels.