Friday, September 12, 2014

Shopping Observations in Germany

An American would stand there and observe various practices in Germany with shoppers and consumers.  This is my list of ten perceptions.

1.  Americans lean awful far on buying in bulk (Costco, Sam's Club).  Germans rarely if in bulk.  If there was some really great deal on beer or drinks....most would buy an extra case or two, but Germans just aren't turning their garages into massive storage areas where they bulk buy and keep six months of various items on the shelf.

2.  There's an argument over the two divisions of buyers (no-plan buyer/consumer and the plan buyer/consumer).  Basically, the statistics tend to show that between thirty and fifty percent of German consumers just shop with no real discount or circular advertisement....just relying on a list of items to buy and cost doesn't matter.  Somewhere between fifty and seventy percent rely to some degree (minimum to maximum) on advertisements and discounts.  This also blends in your income level (wealthy, middle-class, working-poor, etc) and your urban/rural category.

3.  I'd take a humble guess that around ten to fifteen percent of German society is obsessive about buying only when items are discounted or on sale.  This group refuses to pay regular full prices, period.  This group forces a number of grocery chains into competition as they regularly put various items on sale.  It means if you need Head and Shoulders might only see it on sale via the seven grocery chains in your area once every six weeks, and you might need to buy two to stay ahead of the game plan.  Drinking only one type of bottled water?  It might only appear on sale once every four you buy in bulk to make it for this extended period.

4.  Coupons are not as big a player in Germany as the US.  Coupons do exist, but I'd take a estimate that it's about twenty-percent of the scale that you'd see in the US.

5.  People walking into a German grocery, with forty coupons, and buying $100 worth of items for $6?  No, it won't happen.  You might find various ways from the circular advertisements and coupons to save $25 off the $100....but that's as far as you might get.

6.  Non-seasonal fruit in Germany lacks any taste.  I've come to notice fruit being shipped in from India, Israel, and South Africa in the past year to make up for non-seasonal fruit requirements.  Basically, whatever taste you were used to.....I'd say it's lacking to some degree.  Germans will still buy it but in lesser portions.

7.  Consumer frauds?  It occurs in Germany, to a lesser degree.  Last year, we had the horse meat episode ending up in beef products.  For the German consumers....once a name brand gets attached to a scandal of some type or really screws up consumer confidence in them, and they lose business somewhere down the line.

8.  Free samples folks?  Certain German grocery chains allow it and others don't.

9.  Store brands in Germany are a major player.  Various German grocery chains will operate with their own milk brand, their own orange juice brand, their own jelly brand, etc.  Prices tend to be twenty-percent less than the name brand.  Taste?  When they do comparisons.....some limited products come out as good as the name brand.  The majority?  They lack the same taste.

10.  There are certain products produced in the US.....that get produced here in Germany, and the taste is lacking.  Number one on my list?  Doritos-type chips.  I've probably tried at least seven different chips over the years, and found all marginally edible.  Salsa and chips have never really taken off to any degree in Germany.....but I attribute that more to quality of what they make instead of the taste buds of Germans.

Finally, I will make this note.....Germans are the type of shopper that gets stuck on one for example....and they stick to it for decades.  They aren't the type of shopper to try a new coffee or new jelly....just because a new product comes out.  So, it's hard for a new company to come and introduce something and get people to steadily buy it on a regular basis.


blurij said...

Things I noticed when shopping in Belgium, Germany, and the Nederlands:

1) Competition, for the most part, seems to have been mostly outlawed in the major stores. All are closed on Sundays and close by 7pm on weekdays. They only have major sales twice a year for about a two week period. Stores have to compete at the same times during these allotted or allowed "Sale" periods.

The exceptions are the neighborhood tobacco, soda, and international phone calling shops run by the immigrants.

2) You won't find any Family or King size bags of chips, snacks, cereals, etc. Nor will you find a whole shopping aisle devoted just to cereal or sodas. Stores are smaller and selection is limited.

3) Forget about buying bags of ice. Ice hasn't been discovered there yet.

4) On the big PLUS side, you can go to a bakery at 5 or 6 in the morning and get fresh made bread. Hard to beat the smell of a European Konditorei (you will never forget the aroma of butter cookies). USA has lost the art of bread making.

5) The farmers' markets are fabulous. Better than most stores.

6) European stores have more variety of potatoes than we have of apples. And eggnog is available all year long.

7) Lot of stuff that we expect to be sold refrigerated is sold on the shelf, such as milk and eggs.

8) You can actually be served free wine on occasion in some grocery stores.

9) European grocery stores are more digitized than our stores where prices are still posted manually on the shelves. I've seen prices change electronically right before my eyes as I was reaching for the product on the shelf.

10) Basic food items like cheese, vegetables, milk,bread,honey,flour, etc. were cheaper than their equivalent in the USA. All restaurants were much more expensive however even the Fast Food ones.

11) Breakfast doesn't seem to be a big thing over there. I never found a McDonalds open before 8 or 9 AM.
Better to go to the bakeries anyway or go for a Belgian waffle.

12) All purpose stores like a Walmart are far and few between. You can walk yourself ragged looking for simple things like clothespins, paper clips, etc.
On the other hand the little shops are quaint and inviting. Shopping in Europe is like an adventure.

R Hammond said...

The open-hour thing has been a revolution of sorts in Germany. If you go back twenty years ago...Monday through Friday, stores were open from 8AM to 6PM (Thursdays were an extra hour open), and Saturdays were strictly open on mornings (closing by 1PM). Roughly 15 years ago.....they finally crossed the point of time, and you find the stores mostly open from 7AM to 7PM...six days a week. Some even open to 9PM. And Sundays are the forbidden territory (it'll never happen).