Stores aim to win wet market custom

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2002, 12:00am

By cutting pork prices to the bone, ParknShop and Wellcome have launched their most aggressive attempt yet to lure shoppers from markets.

Figures from AC Nielsen show 80 per cent of shoppers still prefer wet markets to supermarkets, with the number of supermarket shoppers rising by only two per cent last year despite their rapid expansion.

ACNielsen Homescan Services director Fanny Chan Ying-fong said shoppers established a loyalty with wet market vendors that was hard for supermarkets to match.

'Normally people go to a wet market near their homes, they visit the same storekeeper every day and they know each other, so it becomes like a social occasion,' Ms Chan said.

'Storekeepers also tend to give away freebies like vegetables to their good customers.

'Another difference is that the customer can tell the storekeeper which part of the pork they would like to buy. They like the fact that they can ask the storekeeper to cut away the fat so they don't have to pay for the extra weight, and it saves them having to do it themselves. It is these small things that add up.'

But while supermarkets have been slow to catch on, their position will improve once the economy picks up, according to Francis Lui Ting-ming, director of the University of Science and Technology's Centre of Economic Development.

'The economy has not been good so a lot of women have to stay at home and there are a lot of unemployed who have time to shop around,' Professor Lui said.

'The value of people's time is not increasing, it is decreasing, so it is no surprise that the growth rate [of the supermarket's fresh food share] is not so high.

'When the economy picks up and people's available time goes down they will . . . stock up at one-stop supermarkets, which is a more efficient use of time. The wet market will still be there but supermarkets will be the winners in the long run.'

The Consumer Council released a survey of 2,727 households last month which found nearly 70 per cent bought fresh food from wet markets, while 30 per cent bought from supermarkets.

However, a Census and Statistics Department survey of 1.9 million households released in September found the number of households shopping at wet markets was 87.6 per cent, while those who bought from supermarkets was just 12.4 per cent.

In both studies wet markets were more popular because the food was fresher and cheaper. Those shopping at supermarkets preferred the cleaner environment.