Consumer (In)attention to Expiration Dates: A Field Study
46 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2021 Last revised: 21 Sep 2021
Date Written: July 30, 2021
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: Suggested Citation