Consumer (In)attention to Expiration Dates: A Field Study

46 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2021 Last revised: 21 Sep 2021

See all articles by Karsten Hansen

Karsten Hansen

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Kanishka Misra

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Robert Evan Sanders

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management

Date Written: July 30, 2021

Abstract

Do consumers pay attention to expiration dates at grocery stores? Thus far, this question has been explored using survey data because of the empirical challenges in observing how consumers make decisions across expiration dates for a product. We study consumer choices for perishable items using the first data set tracking expiration dates for each item on the shelf and consumer choices at the expiration-date level. Our data also include a field study where the oldest-vintage (i.e., soonest-to-expire) items on the shelf received discounts and the retailer periodically rotated items’ locations on the shelf (from oldest to newest). We find consumers are inattentive to expiration dates: (a) when there are multiple, identically-priced vintages on the shelf, consumers choose a dominated item on 44.5% of purchase occasions and choose the oldest vintage on 34.7% of purchase occasions, and (b) merely increasing the oldest vintage’s share of shelf commensurately increases its choice share. This inattention is not purely driven by consumer indifference toward dates but instead driven by consumer hassle costs of inspecting dates. Oldest-vintage choice shares are highly responsive (2.3 percentage points per day) to oldest-vintage expiration dates, but only when these items are easily visible. The oldest-vintage choice share also increases both with retailer inventory rotation (by 23.5 percentage points) and with price discounts (by 6.3 percentage points and an additional 4.8 percentage points per euro). We discuss the managerial and societal implications of our findings.

Keywords: expiration dates, consumer inattention, dynamic pricing, nudges, perishableinventory, supply-chain management, retailers

JEL Classification: D90, Q54, M30, H23, L66

Suggested Citation

Hansen, Karsten and Misra, Kanishka and Sanders, Robert Evan, Consumer (In)attention to Expiration Dates: A Field Study (July 30, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3898800 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3898800

Karsten Hansen

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Kanishka Misra

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Robert Evan Sanders (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Rady School of Management ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Rady School of Management
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

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