According to a study from market researcher Nielsen, households with US$100,000-plus annual incomes still shop at club stores like Costco and Sam's Club and upscale mass merchandisers like Target in search of a bargain, in addition to higher-end grocery chains where they meet their needs for items such as fresh produce, meat, poultry and seafood.

"Affluent shopper DNA is all about product quality and variety, with value as an added bonus," said Todd Hale, senior vice president, consumer & shopper insights at Nielsen Homescan & Spectra. "Strong fresh food sections act like a magnet for affluent shoppers who make 56% more trips to purchase fresh produce, but the quality and selection have got to be there."
 
While affluent households shop in all the mainstream retail channels, they are more than twice as likely to patronise a warehouse club store and 9% more likely to frequent a mass merchandiser when compared with households who earn $20,000 or less, the study said. Conversely, lower income households, earning under $20,000 per year, are 74% more likely to shop at dollar stores, 42% more likely to patronise a convenience/gas store, and 21% more likely to frequent a superstore.

In what will be music to the ears of major retailer marketing executives, Hale said that there were "no surprises about format preferences, which almost perfectly reflect retailer merchandising and targeting strategies".
 
Favourite stores among the affluent include national grocery chains such as Kroger and Safeway, mass merchandisers like Target and Wal-Mart, and niche formats like Whole Foods. Less affluent consumers prefer retailers such as Save-A-Lot, Aldi and Kmart.

Nielsen's research also showed that alternative retail channels enjoy marked popularity among affluent shoppers in search of a knowledgeable sales staff, wide product selection and competitive prices.

While the choice of retailers will not come as a huge surprise, Nielsen also noted that affluent shoppers are "wired to consume". In other words, they visit websites such as CNN, ESPN, The Weather Channel, Google and AOL regularly, as well as tuning into cable TV channels.

Hale said this represents "a real opportunity for retailers to extend their traditional thinking about media to include the Internet, developing more interactive programming, more tailored specials and more engaging content that can differentiate their stores and sustain a dialogue with their customers."