Top Selling Items on Record Shattering Cyber Monday

Amidst reports of Black Friday’s slumping sales numbers, this past Monday’s online sales hit a record breaking $2 billion mark, making 2014’s Cyber Monday the biggest online shopping day to date.  This is just one more data point confirming the accelerating trend away from traditional brick-and-mortar retail to online shopping as detailed in our prior post outlining Black Friday’s rapid shift to become Cyber Friday.

Which items contributed to this 24 hour e-commerce frenzy? Here are the top selling products at some of the major online retailers:

 

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Data methodology:
This data was collected from the online purchases of InfoScout’s 40,000 panelists who share access to the e-receipts they receive in their email inboxes each day. For more information related to our data and panel representation, visit our data page.

Apple Pay’s Black Friday, By The Numbers

Here at InfoScout, we love data.  And we love mobile technology.  So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we’ve put on our analytics hats to learn how the hottest new player in mobile payments, Apple Pay, performed in the Super Bowl of shopping: Black Friday.  To do this, we tracked the shopping behavior and opinions of those in our 170,000 household consumer panel who own an iPhone 6 / 6 Plus and shopped at a retail store that accepts Apple Pay this Black Friday weekend.

Despite its hype within the tech community, Apple Pay still has a lot of ground to cover.  Out of all Apple Pay-eligible transactions on Black Friday, the new NFC-powered mobile payment method was used less than 5% of the time. Let’s explore the details behind this number and what the landscape looks like in terms of Apple Pay usage.

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According to these real-time shopper surveys data, just over 9% of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users who shopped on Black Friday have ever tried using Apple Pay at checkout.  Among those who have used Apple Pay, there was a 50-50 chance that they would use it at checkout when shopping at a participating retailer on Black Friday.  To understand the “why” behind this behavior we explored the extent to which the product or experience itself was the culprit.  We asked Apple Pay users what they thought of it as compared to swiping a card, and found overwhelmingly positive reactions to the experience.

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If Apple Pay users have had such positive experiences, why did only half of them use Apple Pay when given the chance on Black Friday?  Well, we figured they’d know best… so we asked them.

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The biggest piece of the puzzle is simple: they were unaware that the store accepted Apple Pay.  The second-most common reason is that they simply forgot. This isn’t necessarily surprising; the checkout process has become habit for most, and integrating mobile payments into your purchase flow requires change to a very deeply ingrained pattern of behavior.  These two data points highlight Apple’s need to find a way to capture mindshare at checkout, and to remind or inform the user that the purchase could be made with Apple Pay.  Of the two icons currently in use at Apple Pay-accepting stores, only one actually has any Apple branding, and both are fairly subtle and unlikely to grab attention.  If there were a more prominent display, Apple could feasibly increase Apple Pay usage by over 40% – simply by having its user base behave more consistently.

 

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Either of these two icons can be seen at retailers accepting Apple Pay, but only one of them directly refers to Apple Pay.

Taking a step back, however, we see that the biggest opportunity is for Apple Pay to drive adoption among the 90% of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users who have yet to try it – despite shopping at stores that accept Apple Pay.   InfoScout’s survey of these potential users yielded some interesting results…

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A whopping 32% of eligible users haven’t tried Apple Pay because they aren’t familiar with how it works, and 11% simply haven’t heard of it.  That means that nearly half of people who are eligible to use Apple Pay can still be influenced via informational outreach or educational advertising. We’ve already seen that most users who pay with Apple Pay find it to be easier and faster, but now Apple needs to better inform their potential user base of these benefits.  Bonus points to Apple if they can use that same campaign to address any security concerns users may have.

Even with all this data in hand, it is very evident that Apple Pay is still a nascent competitor in the payments industry.  Apple Pay has only been around for 5 weeks, and with over 70 million Apple Pay-capable iPhones expected to sell in Q4 of this year, adoption of Apple Pay may shift drastically as more people upgrade their devices and the positive word-of-mouth from existing users spreads.

We’ll be tracking it all, so stay tuned in to all the action by subscribing via the button above.

Black Friday Top Sellers – Brand Equity Trumps Affordability

While Thanksgiving Day has been gaining steam as a legitimate calendar contender, Black Friday is still widely recognized as retail’s biggest day.  This year’s Friday shoppers brought their brand preferences with them to the stores, and the line defining the weekend’s top performing products shifted away from economy brands and toward trusted items.

Products from companies with lower brand equity, like Emerson and RCA, lost momentum on Black Friday after showing promising early sales indicators on Thanksgiving Day.  Apple, with a brand rating of 9.5/10 and remarkably positive sentiment to its credit, gained a significant share of sales across all retailers.

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How did one company manage to get four of its products in the Black Friday top ten?  To what extent can brands with higher equity rely more heavily on customer loyalty than on reduced prices?  Should economy brands consider investing in their image to help offset the need to sell so many items to make up for lower margins?  As is the case with most worthwhile data, more answers yield more questions.  Find out more about how InfoScout’s unique approach to shopper insights makes brands better marketers.

Data methodology:
InfoScout panelists submitted 180k+ receipts over the course of Black Friday. The data includes purchases at all major retailers including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Costco, Macy’s, JC Penney, Kohl’s, GameStop, RadioShack, and others.  For more information related to our data and panel representation, visit our data page.

Holiday Spending Jumps 29% among Online Shoppers

Forget Cyber Monday, this Thanksgiving weekend online shoppers eschewed packed parking lots, doorbusting brawls and languishing lines to kick-off the holiday shopping season.   Early data from nearly 40,000 Americans* who share their e-commerce shopping activity with InfoScout indicates that online sales are up 29% from Thanksgiving and Black Friday one year ago.

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Which online retailers are leading the pack?  Among the four largest sites we’re tracking in real-time this weekend, Amazon has a clear lead with nearly 41% share – a slight gain from last year.   While Walmart’s overall e-commerce sales appear to be up from a year ago, the brick-and-mortar giant’s share of cyber sales is slightly down versus is its biggest online competitors.  By contrast, BestBuy is rapidly gaining virtual ground thanks to a well executed Cyber Savings campaign that includes free shipping on orders of $35 or more.  Meanwhile, eBay continues its “Countdown to Cyber Monday” campaign which is effectively giving their competitors a three-day head-start in the race for consumers’ limited dollars this holiday season.

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With overall online sales up 29% this Black Thursday & Friday, it begs the question of whether online shoppers are going online earlier this year, or whether they are shifting their spend from physical retail to e-commerce.  By studying both the online and offline purchases reported by Amazon’s holiday shoppers, InfoScout found that their Black Thursday & Friday spend in stores dropped 38% year-over-year to $153.43.  Meanwhile, their average spend at Amazon.com grew 67% to $83.27.  If this trend continues, Amazon’s loyal shoppers will spend more on Amazon.com next Black Friday than they will in all brick-and-mortar retailers combined!

 

Data methodology:
InfoScout’s 40,000 Omnichannel Panelists provided real-time visibility into their Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping both online and in-store.  The data in this study includes purchases at all major e-commerce sites including Amazon, Walmart, eBay, BestBuy, Target, Apple (and more) by 8,793 panelists who also reported their online shopping activity to InfoScout more than one year ago.  The margin of error in the market share analysis is <2% absolute.   The confidence intervals for Amazon, Walmart, BestBuy, and eBay in the market share analysis in 2014 are ±2.78%,±2.61%,±2.48%, and±0.9%,  respectively.  The 95% confidence interval for the first chart on normalized $ spent is ±8.26 for the year 2014.   For more information related to InfoScout’s panel representation and data, visit our data page.

Madden tops list of games this Black Friday

While Xbox cleaned up once again this year, which games were the hottest sellers this Black Friday? Sports-related games climbed the list this year owning 3 of the top 6 spots, a jump from just one sports game in the top 5 last year. Madden NFL 15 topped the charts with an 8.4% share of game spend.

Top Games Black FridayNote share data is for game-only purchases, and excludes console+game bundled purchases.

So to what extent did games drive overall sales within the gaming market on Black Friday? Per a previous post, console+game bundles led the way this year while games alone contributed to 37% to the total share. Black Friday is far from the end of game purchases this holiday season; 77% of panelists who purchased a console on Friday plan to purchase 2+ more games before Christmas.

Gaming Console Purchase Breakdown

Data methodology:
InfoScout panelists submitted 180k+ receipts over the course of Black Friday. The data includes purchases at all major retailers carrying electronics including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, GameStop, RadioShack, and others. For more information related to our data and panel representation, visit our data page.

Bundles & Xbox Dominate the Console War

With no major console releases this Black Friday season, retailers turned to lower prices and console + game bundles to lure in consumers. The bundles seemed to be successful in driving sales, as over 90% of console purchases on Friday were bundled with a game.  Was it really the attached game that drove the sale? Apparently so, as 75% of InfoScout panelists who purchased a gaming console this Black Friday said that the included game was a major influence on their purchase decision.

Top Gaming Console Purchases

Gaming bundles aside, which console came out as the winner this Black Friday? PlayStation4 had a disappointing weekend one year ago, capturing only 15% of the console market. While 2014 shows a slightly better story for the Ps4, between the Xbox One and Xbox 360, Xbox once again dominated the console war, owning 62% of the market share.

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While we know that kids influence their parents’ purchase decision when it comes to holiday gifts, we were curious to what extent and how that varied from console to console. Unsurprisingly, 66% of InfoScout panelists confirmed that they purchased the console for their kids.

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Interestingly though, it varied greatly by console with over 50% of PS4 purchasers buying the console for themselves.

Update – 2014-12-01
Multiple sources reached out to InfoScout and were curious about the motivations behind console purchases during the Black Friday shopping weekend. We shared this curiosity, so we collected survey responses from 350 consumers who purchased a console over the Black Friday weekend. The cost of the console certainly played a role, although that varied by console – 71% of Xbox One purchasers cited price as a major influence on their decision versus just 48% of PlayStation 4 purchasers. As other sources have noted, this may have played a role in its success this weekend. Not surprisingly, price-conscious consumers may have also led to the sales of the 8-year-old Xbox 360 as 92% of consumers noted price as a major influence their decision.


Data methodology:

InfoScout panelists submitted 180k+ receipts over the course of Black Friday. Of the 180k receipts submitted, 2k receipts included a games-related purchase. The data includes purchases at all major brick & mortar retailers carrying electronics including Walmart, Target, Best Buy, GameStop, RadioShack, and others. For more information related to our data and panel representation, visit our data page.

Retailers Face Heavy Deflationary Headwinds this Holiday Season

Powered by over 170,000 consumer panelists, InfoScout’s real-time read on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday sales indicates that early reports of a strong holiday shopping season for America’s major retailers may be inflated.

With consumer electronics dominating the list of best sellers at Walmart, Target, Best Buy and even Kohl’s, these retailers now find themselves exposed to the deflationary pressures of the gadget industry.   Last year, consumers were exposed to exciting new products, and shoppers swarmed in to seize the new must-haves like the iPad Air, Beats Headphones, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.  As an industry that relies on innovation, the relative lack thereof in 2014  has left American shoppers unwilling to spend more for only minimally improved versions of their favorite products.  With their top-selling items now on-shelf at reduced prices, retailers will need to sell many more units than last year to keep pace with sales from the 2013 holiday season.

The list of best selling products in each of Walmart’s top holiday categories is remarkably unchanged, with slightly better offerings at predominantly lower prices.

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Target carries a similar assortment of products to Walmart and therefore faces similar deflationary headwinds this holiday season.   Sales of iPads had accounted for such a large percentage of Target’s holiday sales in 2013, that the retailer will have to steer shoppers towards other products in 2014 in order to overcome the large year-over-year price reductions.

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Even the highly innovative Amazon has struggled to improve upon its Kindle Fire offering from last year.   In fact, consumers are trading down this year from 7-inch to a 6-inch display at a much lower price point.

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It should be no surprise then that average basket values appear to be down across almost every major retailer compared to the year prior.  Early data coming in from InfoScout’s panelists’ shopping in stores on Black Thursday & Black Friday indicate that only Macy’s has managed even the slightest gain in their average transaction.  While this data is just a preliminary read, it is derived from more than 42,000 shopping trips reported thus far at the retailers below.

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To stay on top of America’s shopper journey throughout this retail holiday season, be sure to subscribe (above) for real-time updates.

(Author’s note:  Special thanks to Ben Ahn & Bret Weinberg for their real-time reporting.)

 

First Read on Black Thursday’s Top Sellers

With many stores opening for business before most of us could even finish our plate of Thanksgiving turkey, the unofficial start to the holiday shopping season is officially underway… a lot earlier this year. With retailers no longer waiting until the traditional Black Friday to begin their doorbuster sales, Black Thursday (also dubbed “Grey Thursday”) is inarguably becoming the new norm among retailers anxious to draw customers in early. Shoppers flooded the aisles of Walmart at 6PM on the dot to get their hands on some of the hottest deals, and this data is coming in hot here at InfoScout’s San Francisco headquarters. Here’s a very early look at three major retailers’ top selling items on Black Thursday:

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Methodology:
Data collected from the first 5,000 Walmart receipts, 1,000 Target receipts, and 300 Amazon receipts submitted by InfoScout Panelists on ‘Black Thursday’ (Thanksgiving Day).

The Family Dollar Saga Part Two: Choosing The Better Suitor

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In Part One we showed why we believe antitrust concerns are a non-issue in the battle to acquire Family Dollar. In Part Two, we assume that both Dollar General and Dollar Tree could overcome any potential attempts by the FTC to block their acquisition of Family Dollar, and focus entirely on the question of which bid Family Dollar’s Board should support. Certainly Dollar General’s higher, all cash bid seems more attractive in terms of immediate return for Family Dollar shareholders. But which suitor would make integration easier?  Which suitor is more likely to ensure operational and financial success once the companies are combined? Again, we look to our data for answers.

Product Assortment and Pricing

Dollar Store Product Category Ranks

When we look at product assortment, Dollar General and Family Dollar have the most overlap in terms of items they sell, with a significant emphasis on grocery items such as chips, soft drinks, milk, pet food, paper products, and candy at both retailers. As we saw previously, their pricing models are also closely aligned. Dollar Tree on the other hand, depends more on party supplies and seasonal items, while sticking to the $1 price point. There is assortment overlap between Dollar Tree and Family Dollar in categories such as candy, soft drinks, paper products, and household cleaning products.

Dollar General’s wide assortment overlap with Family Dollar would give it several advantages over Dollar Tree. For one, it would potentially lead to better purchasing power with its existing vendors given the higher volumes it would be ordering. This could allow it to save costs and/or lower prices for consumers (again the FTC is going to have a tough time arguing that prices will rise for dollar store consumers!). Further, the combined Dollar General & Family Dollar supply chain would be less complicated than with Dollar Tree due to increased volumes with fewer vendors, resulting in more full truckload logistics for lower costs as well as having less dependence on hard to plan seasonal and closeout merchandise.

Lastly, if Dollar Tree wins and decides to migrate Family Dollar stores to its pricing and assortment model, that could potentially drive away existing customers or introduce operational risk at the very least. Perhaps instead, Dollar Tree sees a Family Dollar acquisition as a path to reducing its own dependence on managing constantly changing seasonal and closeout merchandise – a strategy that must be difficult to scale much further. Either way Dollar Tree seems to be at a disadvantage from a merchandising integration standpoint given its very different assortment and pricing model.

Overlapping Footprints

Geographic Overlap

As a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article points out, Dollar General and Family Dollar also share a high degree of geographic overlap. We ran our own analysis based on store zip codes and found that 65% of Family Dollar stores share their zip code with at least one Dollar General store. On the flip side, only 35% of Family Dollar stores share their zip code with a Dollar Tree store. It is to Dollar Tree’s advantage to have lower geographic overlap, because it means they will be getting access to more new territories. Of course it’s what also allows them to say that they have fewer chances to remove competition from markets they operate in after the acquisition. That all being said, even with higher existing overlap, a Dollar General-Family Dollar combo would reach 2,400 more distinct zip codes in total than a Dollar Tree-Family Dollar combo because of sheer size.

Of course what really matters is not just proximity, but the extent to which consumers already cross-shop the potentially merged retailers. As we saw in Part One, many dollar store chain shoppers tend to stick to one chain in any given month – despite shopping for groceries several times each month.  According to our data, while Dollar General and Family Dollar have significant geographic overlap, only 21% of Dollar General shoppers also shop at a Family Dollar store in a given month.

Financial Considerations

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The financial ramifications of either deal will be interesting. The goal of nearly every acquisition is to obtain synergies, both on the revenue side and the cost side. Dollar General has promised nearly double the cost synergies as Dollar Tree, with a target of $600 million by year three. Revenue synergies will be more difficult since price hikes are a non-starter for dollar stores, but perhaps synergistic promotional opportunities exist. For example the merged entity should garner more trade funds from vendors, allowing greater economies of scale to be achieved through each promotional dollar spent. By virtue of its assortment variety and different pricing model, Dollar Tree might have an edge with cross promotions across, except that it has less geographic overlap and its shoppers are less likely to also shop at Family Dollar. The Dollar General deal would lead to a combined company with a higher initial debt level of about 4.3X net debt to EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes and Depreciation & Amortization) versus roughly 3.75X with Dollar Tree.

The good news is that either Dollar Tree or Dollar General will likely bring operational efficiencies and margin enhancement to Family Dollar because both chains have higher annual revenue per store and higher operating margins than Family Dollar. That would help either combined company pay down debt faster with increased operating income. Dollar General’s commitment to sell a significant number of overlapping Family Dollar stores while shuttering significantly under-performing stores would seem to increase the likelihood of its ability to improve Family Dollar’s operating margins. In addition, our data indicates that among dollar store buyers, the dollar store channel has seen a slight “share of wallet” increase so far this year. That bodes well for all three chains.

Our Closing Thoughts

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Though it depends how you weight each decision factor, it appears the the Family Dollar board is going to have a hard time justifying its rejection of the higher Dollar General bid to its shareholders based on what we have shown here in part two of our Family Dollar Saga blog series. If you are curious to know more about what our data shows, give us a shout at contactus@infoscout.co!

The Family Dollar Saga Part One: Why Antitrust Concerns Are Overblown

Family Dollar Tug of War

There’s a fierce tug of war happening this month between Dollar General and Dollar Tree over the future of Family Dollar.  In late July, Dollar Tree announced its intention to acquire Family Dollar.  Not content to sit idly by and watch the two smaller chains combine forces, Dollar General extended a higher bid of its own for Family Dollar. Despite General’s offer being roughly $460 million richer, the Board of Directors at Family Dollar rejected the higher offer in favor of Dollar Tree’s lower offer. In doing so, Family Dollar’s Board claimed that a Dollar General-Family Dollar combination would face more significant antitrust hurdles with federal regulators. We are data geeks at heart over here at InfoScout, sitting on a treasure-trove of consumer shopping data, so we decided to put this antitrust claim to the test.

Though the official merger guidelines of the FTC are long, broad, and a better sleep inducer than a glass of warm milk, in practice antitrust concerns typically revolve around a Key Findingsfew key principles relating to “market power”. The FTC seeks to limit mergers that would enhance market power in a manner that leads to higher prices, reduced output, less innovation, or reduced service for consumers. The FTC puts particular emphasis on anticipated pricing effects, and takes a negative view of mergers that they believe will lead to higher prices.  So, how likely is it that a Dollar General acquisition of Family Dollar would lead to higher prices for consumers?

Dollars and Sense: What We Can Learn From Each Retailer’s Prices

Infoscout Dollar Store Data

Our consumer panel includes 78,957 households who have shared with us their receipts from over 470,000 shopping trips to the three major dollar store chains thus far in 2014. The first thing we looked at in our analysis was average item level pricing levels for these three major dollar chains across the country. We found that Family Dollar’s average price per item purchased was the highest, at $2.20 each. Dollar General came in next at $2.08, and finally Dollar Tree at $0.97. This isn’t too surprising given the business models of each chain, with Family Dollar and Dollar General offering plenty of merchandise above $1.00, while Dollar Tree tends to stick to the traditional dollar store model by offering a unique rotating assortment of smaller packaged items that can be offered at a price point below $1.00. Dollar General and Family Dollar carry a very similar assortment of products (as opposed to Dollar Tree), as they both sell a significant amount of grocery type consumable products. This allowed us to drill-down into specific, popular products where they overlap to compare prices. For most products, Family Dollar’s average sales prices were higher than Dollar General’s corresponding prices.  Given Dollar General’s already lower pricing, it seems unlikely that the Federal Trade Commission could successfully argue that their acquisition of Family Dollar would result in higher prices at Family Dollar stores.  If anything, we would expect Dollar General to leverage its purchasing power and economies of scale to drive down prices even further.

Dollar Store Item Pricing comparison

But what might happen if Dollar General did raise prices at Family Dollar stores after an acquisition?

Substitutes for Consumers and a Lack of Market Power

Do adequate substitutes exist for consumers?   To answer this question, we looked at both shoppers’ opinions and their actual shopping behavior, and found overwhelming support that dollar store customers have good substitutes which they are already shopping.

Family Dollar consumer survey data

When surveyed through our mobile platform, Family Dollar shoppers made it clear that low pricing is the primary reason for their patronage.  So, given Walmart’s de facto status as America’s low price leader, we then asked Family Dollar shoppers if they consider Walmart a good substitute. Over 80% of those surveyed responded that yes indeed, they consider Walmart a good substitute. In fact, less than 10% of the Family Dollar shoppers surveyed said they would be unlikely to switch to Walmart if Family Dollar raised prices. Clearly, raising prices would be a very bad strategy for Family Dollar, and would likely send a slew of their shoppers Walmart’s way.  It is interesting to note, however, that only 44% of Family Dollar shoppers consider traditional grocery stores to be a good substitute.

Dollar Store Cross Channel Shopping

Of course it’s not just what consumers say, but what they actually do that really counts. When it comes to actual shopping trip behavior, the data is even more conclusive. We studied those consumers who have shopped at dollar stores so far this year and found that in any given month, over 90% of dollar store shoppers also shopped at supercenters such as Walmart, Target, or Kmart. Dollar store buyers do not appear to have a lack of access to stores they consider substitutes. Additionally, over 90% of dollar store shoppers also visit traditional grocery stores each month. Further, we found that for dollar store shoppers specifically, dollar stores as a whole have only accounted for roughly 2.5% of their total spend on fast moving consumer goods thus far in 2014. This tiny share of wallet across the industry, combined with consumers active shopping at potential substitute stores, means that it would be very difficult for a dollar store chain to raise prices and not lose customers en masse.   Consumers, therefore, would not be trapped if prices were raised at Family Dollar.

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Interestingly, although dollar store customers cross shop other mass and grocery retailers, most do not typically shop at more than one dollar store in a given month. Close to 80% of the shoppers at these three major dollar chains only shop one of the chains in a given month. Antitrust regulators would have a difficult time arguing that merged dollar chains will have an incentive to reduce customer access by consolidating or shutting down stores. By shutting down large numbers of stores, dollar chains would be unlikely to retain affected customers, and would instead be losing them to other retailers.

Whole Foods’ 2007 acquisition of Wild Oats is a useful and comparable case study. The FTC tried to challenge that combination on the grounds that Whole Foods and Wild Oats compete in a tightly defined natural food grocer market, but ultimately lost that fight because the reality is that natural food grocers compete in a larger price competitive grocery market. Our data conclusively shows that the same factors apply to Dollar General’s bid for Family Dollar.   Simply put, the combined chains would still hold less than 4% of the US market for fast moving consumer goods – insufficient to justify an antitrust-based challenge by the FTC.

Although we find no basis for the Board of Family Dollar to reject Dollar General’s offer on the grounds that the acquisition could be blocked by the FTC for antitrust reasons, there may be other reasons why a merger with Dollar Tree could make more sense.  Which suitor should the Family Dollar board ultimately pick?  Stay tuned for Part Two where we will present more consumer insights around who’s the better business fit.