Further evidence of the impact the credit crunch is having on the food retail industry came today (5 September) when a new US study revealed consumers are turning to supercentres to make fewer and larger shopping trips in order to save on fuel costs.

Information Resources Inc's latest research, "Times & Trends: Channel Migration 2008", found that supercenters were the only retail format to achieve sales gains across during the last year.

Supercentres also saw increased visits from consumers with all income levels and with three high-potential market segments - baby boomers, Hispanics and households with children.

This trend, IRI said, presents a challenge to other retailers: "Some will try to 'out-super' the supercentres by expanding assortments and lowering prices. Others will begin providing a more premium experience to attract higher-income shoppers. Still others will stay with their current market strategies and wait until better times return," the report suggested.

"With the economy not expected to rebound until at least the second quarter of 2009, there is ample time for consumers to become comfortable with their new shopping patterns, suggesting that these changes and the competitive ramifications could have some staying power," IRI president of innovation and consulting Thom Blischok warned.