Save or (over-)spend? The impact of hard-discounter shopping on consumers' grocery outlay

Els Gijsbrechts, K. Campo, M.J.J. Vroegrijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


An increasing number of consumers have come to patronize a hard discounter (HD) to save on their grocery budget. Given the HDs' rock-bottom prices, a complete switch from the traditional supermarket (TS) to the HD format would, indeed, substantially reduce grocery spending. However, consumers typically visit the HD on top of a TS, leading to a more complex purchase allocation and decision process. In addition to limiting the potential savings to part of the basket, these multiple store shopping patterns may therefore result in depletion of self-control resources and to self-licensing, consumers using realized savings to justify additional indulgent purchases. In this study, we explain and empirically analyze the effect of HD patronage on consumer spending, taking the selected shopping pattern (single versus multiple stores, visited on separate versus combined shopping trips) into account. To this end, we use scanner panel data on households' actual weekly purchase behavior. We also examine household differences in these effects, and relate them to household characteristics.

Our results show that shifting the entire basket to the HD entails substantial savings. Yet, for the majority of consumers, adding a HD to the store set does not reduce grocery outlay: visiting the HD and TS on separate shopping trips leads to a “status quo”, and visiting them on combined shopping trips even enhances weekly spending. While consumers pay less per unit bought at the HD, this is (more than) offset by the purchase of larger quantities across a broad range of product categories, and of more expensive items at the TS. Especially older consumers or larger households, and consumers who shop more frequently or are easily enticed by promotions, are bound to overspend.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-288
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • hard discounter
  • consumer spending
  • multiple-store shopping
  • shopping-trip organization
  • grocery retailing


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