WINN-DIXIE UNLEASHES PET SUPPLY DISCOUNTS

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here has added pet supplies to its "Low Price Leader" program of everyday department discounts, offering a 30% savings.The chain has promoted the discount in print ads. For example, in the last week of May, its Atlanta division ran a full-page newspaper ad for pet products in support of National Pet Month.The ad said, "Pamper Your Pet For 30% Less . . . Now

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here has added pet supplies to its "Low Price Leader" program of everyday department discounts, offering a 30% savings.

The chain has promoted the discount in print ads. For example, in the last week of May, its Atlanta division ran a full-page newspaper ad for pet products in support of National Pet Month.

The ad said, "Pamper Your Pet For 30% Less . . . Now Save 30% Everyday On Pet Supplies From Winn-Dixie!" Brands listed were Hartz Mountain, Scratchex, Sargeants, Longlife, Monarch and Sulfadean. An adjacent graphic said, "May Is Pet Month!" Also, a separate box showcased specials on Pedigree dog food and Whiskas cat food, saying "Winn-Dixie gives you lower prices everyday on your pet's favorite foods." A footer said, "The Low Price Leader." "The pet category was added to the number of categories that we discount," said Gerald Steele, marketing director for Winn-Dixie's Atlanta division. "We felt it appropriate to promote the pet food with the pet supplies.

"Like any category, we want to call more [consumer] attention to it," Steele said. "If you happen to have National Pet Month, could you pick a better time to run a larger ad?" He added, "The response has been good."

Not all Winn-Dixie divisions ran full-page ads, but the 30% discount on pet supplies -- which doesn't include pet food -- is chainwide, according to Mickey Clerc, Winn-Dixie's corporate spokesman. "It wasn't a sale; that's our permanent pricing on pet supplies. It's part of our everyday discounts," he said.

"Our position in the market is that we're going to be the lowest-price, full-service supermarket. So that [pet supplies] is one of the areas in which we're offering everyday low prices that are discounted against manufacturers' suggested retail prices or prepriced items."

Clerc was unsure when the pet supplies discount started but said the category has one of the higher markdowns. However, a store source said the discount began about the beginning of May.

The discount may be a defense against pet superstores like PetsMart and Petstuff, which have sprouted up in Atlanta and other major markets, an Atlanta-area observer said. "All the grocery stores in town are looking for ways to get people back into the supermarkets to look for pet products," he said.

Metro Atlanta supermarkets also have been competing more aggressively against each other in pet products, the observer noted. "The whole category heated up when the superstores came in," he said, adding that supermarkets have slashed prices and expanded pet offerings. "They're taking slimmer margins on pet products to get customers back into their stores."

Winn-Dixie's Clerc denied that pet superstore competition effected the discount. "There are specialty stores out there in almost every classification," he said. "I wouldn't say this [pet supplies discount] is an answer to them."

Supermarket competition in Atlanta has intensified, and Winn-Dixie may be trying to get an edge by discounting a destination-type category like pet products, a New York-based analyst who follows the company said. "The overall Atlanta market has become very competitive, with Publix coming into the market and A&P claiming that they're doing a good job with the Big Star stores they've taken over," he said.

"Pet food is sort of like baby food. It's pretty much a brand-name item treated like a commodity. So you use that as a draw to get people into the store."