Cross-shopping here to stay? Of course!

Today’s Retail Wire discussion touches on the growth of cross-shopping in the UK and analyzes whether it’s a long-term shift in consumer behavior likely to outlive the recession. My thoughts:

Cross-shopping behavior might be a recent phenomenon in the UK but it has been observed for many years in the U.S. The same customer who shops at Macy’s or Nordstrom for apparel thinks nothing of driving to the power center across the street for the mall to stock up on consumables at Walmart or cheap-chic housewares at Target. And the increasingly narrow focus of the department stores has become a payday for specialists like Best Buy.

The bigger question in the U.S. isn’t whether cross-shopping will survive the recession (of course it will), but which retailers have gained market share in the past 18 months. Will Walmart continue to thrive at the expense of Target? Will shoppers continue to favor Kohl’s at the expense of traditional mall anchors like JCPenney and Macy’s? Will warehouse stores and off-price retailers keep their share of the customer’s dollar?

The likely answer is “Yes,” if consumer behavior is truly at a point of significant change. If “the new normal” drives more saving, less discretionary spending and a more budgeted focus on household shopping, then consumers will continue not only to cross-shop but also to favor today’s winning stores.

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