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That shopping list mom crafted before each trip to the supermarket-and abided by diligently while there-is officially passe. Consumers today are shopping freestyle.

New research by the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute indicates 70% of purchase decisions are made in-store at supermarkets, up from 66% nine years ago.

That figure is even higher at mass merchandisers, where 74% of purchase decisions are made in-store.

"People are not making planned grocery lists like they used to," says Terrence Atkins, director of soup promotion at Campbell Soup Co. "Occasionally, consumers might buy a week's worth of groceries," he says, "but there's a lot of convenience-type purchases made throughout the week."

At even with fragmented media, "the one thing that remains constant is that people still have to shop."

"Everyone is paying more attention to point of purchase," says Donald O'Leary, VP-media and community affairs for Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., a survey sponsor. "Food marketing is so competitive that [supermarkets and manufacturers] need things to distinguish [themselves]."

The POPAI survey was conducted by Meyers Research Center, which surveyed 4,200 shoppers just before they entered a store and immediately after their exit. Meyers examined their receipts and conducted a daily audit of POP materials present at the time of the interviews. The margin of error is less than 1%.

The study found the three categories most heavily influenced by point-of-purchase advertising in supermarkets, oddly enough, aren't foods. POPAI's survey found first-aid products rank as the category with the highest in-store buying decision rate, 93%, up from 66% in the 1986 study.

Crafts-a newly-ranked category-was tied at 93%; stationery was third with 90%, up from 85%.

Other high-ranking categories include fresh packaged sweet baked goods (88%); salsa/dip (88%); air fresheners (86%) and shelf-stable prepared foods (85%).

Supermarket categories with the lowest in-store advertising influence rates include produce (33%); meat/seafood (47%); eggs (53%); and poultry (62%).

But while POP's influence is growing, spending on POP isn't increasing as fast as most other media (see chart, Page 33). At Campbell, Mr. Atkins says, the POP budget has remained constant or declined slightly in recent years because some supermarkets no longer will accept POP materials from marketers.

"More and more of our major retail accounts are tightly controlled by POP policies....and won't let marketers put up their own merchandise," Mr. Atkins says.

But sales go up when POP's there.

The study found that consumers spend at least 12% more than intended at grocery stores when POP advertising is present.

Moreover, consumers often enter a grocery store with certain intentions but leave with different products in their shopping bags.

It was found that in supermarkets, 42% of the brands purchased were supported by POP materials; at mass merchandisers, that figure was 35%, fueling the notion that brand loyalty, like the shopping list, is passe as well.

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