BREAKFASTS OF CHAMPIONS

ATLANTA -- Grocers looking to bowl shoppers over in the breakfast aisle may want to go out and buy a brand-new, big bowl.Shoppers queried during an SN visit to Atlanta-area supermarkets said they are gravitating toward the newer, larger supermarkets springing up throughout this fast-growing metropolis.Concerning the breakfast aisle, shoppers said, the newer stores mean better selection. Shoppers also

ATLANTA -- Grocers looking to bowl shoppers over in the breakfast aisle may want to go out and buy a brand-new, big bowl.

Shoppers queried during an SN visit to Atlanta-area supermarkets said they are gravitating toward the newer, larger supermarkets springing up throughout this fast-growing metropolis.

Concerning the breakfast aisle, shoppers said, the newer stores mean better selection. Shoppers also feel better in the newer stores because they appear to be cleaner, they told SN.

"It's always nice to shop in a newer store," said one shopper at a Publix unit that SN visited on its opening day last month. "It gives you the feeling that everything is cleaner and a lot more wide open. I can't tell for sure, but it certainly looks like there's more cereal down this aisle than in the Kroger up the

road. It seems newer stores have wider aisles or something."

That shopper was right. The trend in the Atlanta area is toward larger supermarkets with wider -- and longer -- aisles. While much of that space in the breakfast aisle is devoted to increased selection, a fair amount also is allotted to toys. It seems the larger the breakfast aisle, the larger the selection of toys.

"The toys sell pretty well," said the grocery manager at an area Kroger store. "It makes sense to put them here. Every family goes down that aisle. The kids go shopping with their mothers, see the toys and then ask for them. It's one of the most logical places for impulse sales of toys."

For the most part, Kroger and Publix had the newest stores in the area, and their larger, modern design extended to the breakfast aisle. For instance, most of their stores had four shelves throughout the aisle, where the smaller A&P and Bruno's formats generally had three. The aisles were wider and did not have support pillars in them, and the ceilings were generally higher, allowing for better lighting.

"Kroger and Publix generally have the nicest stores in the market," said an Atlanta-area broker. "They are the most aggressive in terms of new stores. Winn-Dixie is the other big player here. They are bigger than Publix, but Publix is really coming on strong."

Other area observers also listed those three companies as the area's leaders. Kroger, they said, controls about 33% of the market share; Winn-Dixie and Publix both have about 15%.

"This is a highly competitive market," one observer said. "All the stores do a great deal of advertising. The breakfast aisle is an important one because they want to get families into the stores. Kroger seems to do the best job of advertising it, but they all do a pretty good job."

Indeed, during SN's visit to Atlanta, Winn-Dixie, A&P and Harris Teeter all had breakfast-aisle items featured in their advertisements.

In terms of percentage of space devoted to various components of the breakfast aisle, most stores offered similar assortments. Distinct sections of cold cereal, hot cereal -- including a separate area for grits -- toaster pastries and fruit snacks were found in each store. Toys were displayed in their own section as well as on cross-merchandising strips throughout the aisles.

The following are snapshots of the breakfast aisle treatment offered by Atlanta-area chains.

Kroger: Leading by Example

Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is the market leader here and is aggressively seeking to keep it that way. It does lots of advertising and has the greatest presence in the market.

"They've done a couple of things with Kellogg's," said one area observer. "On a couple of occasions they've run ads with their cereals and Pop Tarts. But they do that with a lot of manufacturers. It's a good way to get exposure."

A customer in Kroger's Stockbridge, Ga., store has taken note.

"Kroger seems to do a lot of advertising," she said. "They put cereals on sale enough that it lets you stock up a bit."

If Kroger's out-of-store advertising doesn't grab someone's attention, its in-store signs will. Shelf tags highlighting new items, "Yellow Tag Savings" and Kroger's private-label offerings are seen throughout the aisles.

"I regularly buy Kroger-brand cereals," the Kroger shopper told SN. "They did a lot of advertising about it, so I tried it and liked it. I still buy a lot more of the national brands, but I do buy Kroger products as well."

Kroger stores generally featured several cross-merchandising hooks and strips -- many holding toys -- per aisle. Toys also often were merchandised in 8-foot sections within the aisle.

"I've gotten suckered in a couple of times," the shopper in Kroger's Stockbridge store said. "Toys in supermarkets are usually inexpensive-type things that you can almost use as bribes to keep your kids in line while you shop."

Winn-Dixie: The Price Is Right

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie's stores generally received good ratings from shoppers queried during SN's visit.

"They seem to place a lot of emphasis on price," said one shopper. "From what I can tell they are lower than -- or at least the same as -- everyone else."

Winn-Dixie stores visited by SN were similar in size and selection to the newer Kroger and Publix markets in the area. Shoppers and other area observers said the chain doesn't put the emphasis on private label that Kroger does.

"I generally buy only the national brands in cereal," one shopper said. "I really don't even look at the store brands. If they're advertising them, I'm not really aware of it."

She obviously didn't see the shelf tags comparing the prices of Winn-Dixie's store-brand cereals to those of the national brands.

Of the stores visited by SN, a Winn-Dixie unit was the only one to include children's vitamins and books in the breakfast aisle.

Initial Publix Offering

Publix is the up-and-coming chain in the area. Since moving into the area a few years ago, the chain has made strong inroads. Its new stores are making quite an impression with shoppers.

"This store is so open and airy," said a shopper at the chain's Powers Ferry store. "I prefer to shop here because I have more room to look around."

One thing she and other shoppers see when they look around the breakfast aisle is price comparison signs. Publix not only compares the prices of its private-label products to those of the national brands, it compares prices on all products to those at other supermarkets. Both types of signs list the two prices and the percentage saved by buying the item.

Other point-of-purchase signs include Advantage Buy signs, alerting shoppers to sale-priced items.

"Publix has a great reputation," said one area broker. "As they continue to move in here, residents of Atlanta will find out why.

"They are great merchandisers, their stores are always clean and well-stocked; they seem to know how to do things right. Seeing them go head-to-head with Kroger is going to be interesting to watch." A&P, Ingles and Bruno's

A&P, Ingles and Bruno's, three chains that have been in the area for a while, generally have smaller stores than the area's three leading chains.

"The stores are smaller, but I can still get almost everything I need," an A&P shopper told SN. "I like coming here because it's not as crowded as some of the other stores."

Selection, an Ingles shopper said, is not a problem. "They seem to have the same brands as the bigger stores. Maybe they don't have all the different sizes, but that's not a big deal to me."

A&P's aisles had numerous POP materials highlighting the chain's America's Choice brand and its frequent shopper program.

POP materials at Bruno's -- which were not as plentiful as at A&P -- included "Super Saver," "New Item," and "Our Brand" shelf tags.

Cub Foods

Cub, which operates 11 warehouse stores in the market, puts an emphasis on price.

"I've done some comparisons and they are cheaper," asserted one Cub Foods shopper. "That can add up when buying cereal because I have to buy a lot of it for my kids. I especially like when they put items on a temporary price reduction."