It takes nerves of steel to open a new retail store in a sparsely populated area: Either that or really good population data.
The Kroger Company believes that it has the best data available in STI: PopStats™. “We have complete confidence in PopStats. Its numbers are second to none,” says John LeTourneux, Director of the Corporate Development Research Department. “PopStats provides the demographic foundation of all of our market research.”
Dale Caldwell agrees. “I consider PopStats the Bible of demographic data because of its accuracy and scope,” says the AVP of Kroger’s Research Department, based in Portland, Oregon. “PopStats’ population estimates and projections are essential in all of our market research.”
Kroger performs a wide range of market research, based both on external and internal data, including quarterly updates of PopStats. “We are rigorous in our research, and have developed an extensive database from our 2,500 grocery stores,” says LeTourneux. The Kroger Company operates grocery stores in 31 states under nearly two dozen banners.
Counting on High Growth in New Markets
Kroger uses PopStats in several ways, including two primary market analyses and six specialty research projects. Its primary market research includes adding PopStats population counts and household profiles into gravity models to project sales for new and remodeled grocery stores.
Kroger makes new location decisions based on these models — including into neighborhoods just starting to grow.
“It’s exciting to open a store in a new area and watch the population grow up around it over the first year or two,” notes John. He says that many of Kroger’s 50 stores in the Las Vegas area followed this pattern during that market’s boom years.
“The grocery industry is a very competitive business,” he adds. “To win market share and not play second fiddle, you have to be the first one in a market. PopStats’ accurate population counts are critical to helping us try to be are the first one in fast-growing markets.”
Conducting Specialty Market Research
In addition to its market growth projection models, Kroger also uses PopStats in six specialty research areas:
- Metro ethnic distribution reports. Kroger’s research team creates thematic maps of targeted trade areas, which are used for site selection of new stores and to determine if specialty stores should be created to cater to ethnic populations.
- Regional ethnic reports. These reports are used to help Kroger ensure that it is meeting EEOC guidelines for employing an ethnically diverse workforce.
- Market share analysis for acquisitions. Using population data and per capita weekly expenditure data, these studies measure what affect closing one store will have on other stores in terms of shifting market share.
- Market share analysis for advertising. This research helps individual Kroger stores target their advertising dollars to, for example, advertise more heavily to customers it would like to draw or not advertise where it is likely to yield low results.
- Demographic reports. Store managers often request these reports to better understand the populations living in their trade areas.
- Ethnic trend tracking reports. This is a research project that Kroger will add in the near-future thanks to PopStats addition of five-year projections for ethnicity in its April 2009 quarterly release. “We want to project ethnic population trends so that we can, for example, either build specialty stores in the right neighborhoods or change our product mix in existing stores to be responsive to demographic changes,” explains LeTourneux.
Today, along with its many specialty research projects, Kroger’s market research department continues to look for the next high-growth areas — so they can, once again, “be the first one there and garner the number one position,” says LeTourneux.