Midwest Retailers Hold the Line on Prices

Some retail operators in the Midwest are emphasizing that despite inflation, prices for holiday meals have stayed the same or even declined. Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, for example, said it has lowered its prices for holiday meals this year in deference to economically stressed shoppers, while Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is touting prices on holiday meals that have stayed the same as a year ago.

Some retail operators in the Midwest are emphasizing that despite inflation, prices for holiday meals have stayed the same — or even declined.

Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis, for example, said it has lowered its prices for holiday meals this year in deference to economically stressed shoppers, while Kroger Co., Cincinnati, is touting prices on holiday meals that have stayed the same as a year ago.

“Clearly shoppers are looking for value this holiday season, without sacrificing the quality and selection they expect from Marsh,” said Connie Gardener, a spokeswoman for the chain.

Marsh is touting pre-cooked holiday turkey dinners — roasted or deep-fried — for $39.95 and ham dinners for $49.95.

A survey released this month by Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., indicated that the Midwest region of the country has entered a recession, based on its Business Conditions Index.

“In the 14 years that we have conducted the monthly survey, October's was the weakest ever,” said Ernie Goss, Creighton University economics professor, in a statement. “The regional economy is now in a recession, and I expect the downturn to deepen in the months ahead.”

The nine-state region covered by the survey has experienced job losses in nine of the last 10 months.

“With less and less support from exports, and fallout from the national credit crunch, I expect even more job losses and rising unemployment well into 2009,” Goss said. “The question is no longer whether we are in a recession, but how long will it last.”

Local chains are responding with price-oriented offers for the holidays.

In addition to offering competitive prices on turkeys and hams, Marsh also is partnering with suppliers for holiday-themed promotions in its circulars each week, Gardener said.

Another addition to this season's holiday promotions comes from the chain's Food Club private label. “We intend to heavily promote our Food Club line throughout the holidays as a means for shoppers to save,” said Gardener.

One of the biggest new initiatives at Marsh this season is the promotion of its newly expanded “gift card mall.”

“Cross-promotions with gift cards provide shoppers with some excellent last-minute gift ideas, and now that we have many new cards to offer — such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom and iTunes, just to name a few — we certainly have something viable to offer our shoppers,” Gardener said.

Marsh is also renewing its annual holiday cookbook program in partnership with a local TV station, WTHR-13. In the “Sunrise Cookbook” program, the chain hosts in-store book signings and sells cookbooks for $9.99, with proceeds going to the United Christmas Fund, a United Way charity based in Indianapolis.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Hy-Vee has also renewed its “Holiday Brands for Grands” promotion, in which the chain visits the homes of local shoppers and pays $100 for every Hy-Vee brand item found in the house (up to $2,500). The West Des Moines, Iowa-based company selects 12 winners per week.

In Cincinnati, Bigg's, the 12-store supercenter chain owned by Minneapolis-based Supervalu, is running a frequency promotion called “Turkey Bucks” that allows customers to earn $1 in discounts for every $25 spent in the store through Nov. 22.

Kroger is touting prepared holiday meals at the “same great prices as last year,” including a turkey dinner for $39.99, a ham dinner for $59.99 and a prime rib dinner for $69.99.