The Supermarket As A Classroom

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Based on studies, children play a significant role in the business market. Because of their distinct buying behavior, entrepreneurs seek to know more about them as they comprise the biggest share in the market circle.

Professor James McNeal has a five-stage model of how children learn to shop by visiting supermarkets and other retail outlets with their parents.

Stage I: Observing. Parents begin taking children to the store at a median age of 2 months (ranging from 1 to 33 months). During this stage, children make sensory contact with the marketplace and begin forming mental images based on the objects and symbols they see. With the visit made to the market, there is a great probability that the experience may produce rewards beyond the stimulation caused by the environment.

Stage II: Making Requests. At this stage, children begin requesting items from the store to their parents. They would often use gestures such as pointing at an item or items; as well as make statements to indicate that that they want this or that. Throughout a month of this stage, children make requests only when the item is physically present, as they do not yet carry mental images of the products in their minds. In the latter months of stage II, they begin to make requests for items at home, particularly when they are seen on television.

Some children enter this stage as early as of 6 months. Nevertheless, the median age is 2 years. By 3 years, two-thirds are making requests in the store and at home.

Stage III: Making Selections. Actually getting an item off the shelf without assistance is the first act of an independent consumer. For instance, a mother and daughter went to a bookmark printing shop to buy some bookmarks for their books at home. Then suddenly while the mother is talking to the cashier of the store, the child grabs some more bookmarks and wants the mom to buy them all. At its simplest level, a childs desire is triggered by an item in his or her immediate presence and this item is selected. Soon, however, children begin to remember the store location of desirable items, and they are allowed to go to those areas independently or to lead the parent there.

Children begin to do this almost as soon as they can walk. Some are in this stage as one-year-olds. But the median age is three and half years.

Stage IV: Making Assisted Purchase. Most children learn by observing that money need to be given in order to get things from a store. They learn to value money given to them by their parents and other people as a means to acquire things. Soon, they are to select and pay for items with their own money. They are now primary consumers. Some enter this stage as early as two, though the median age is five and a half years.

Stage V: Making Independent Purchase. Making a purchase without a parent to oversee requires a fairly sophisticated understanding of value as well as the ability to visit a store (or a section of a store) safely without a parent. Most children remain in stage IV a long time before their parents allow them to move to stage V. Thus, the median age of entering stage V is eight years.

McNeal's research indicates that the children learn to shop, at least in part, by going shopping with their parents. Retailers are developing programs based on these learning patterns. So can you pattern your stores marketing strategy to entice more customers to come in as early as 2 months.

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