Publix: Well Positioned to Manage Through Downturn

While consumers are facing steep price increases for food and fuel, executives at Publix Super Markets believe the Southeast's largest supermarket chain, which serves many of the region's higher-income customers, is well positioned to handle an economic slowdown. People forget that our economy has gone through these shifts several times. We should be in a better position now than

LAKELAND, Fla. — While consumers are facing steep price increases for food and fuel, executives at Publix Super Markets here believe the Southeast's largest supermarket chain, which serves many of the region's higher-income customers, is well positioned to handle an economic slowdown.

“People forget that our economy has gone through these shifts several times. We should be in a better position now than we were in [the last recession], because we understand our customers' desires and needs better, and we continue to grow our business relationships,” said Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for the 962-store chain.

“We find that customers are still shopping in our stores, maybe even more so because they may be going out to eat less,” she said.

Still, Publix is looking for ways to add value to assist shoppers during the tough time. “We are all experiencing larger price increases on everything from fuel to goods. Customers are looking for value, and we do provide value through the buy-one, get-one-free opportunities in our stores,” Brous said, adding that the company recent relaunched its National Brand Challenge promotion.

The annual National Brand Challenge, now in its third year, encourages shoppers who buy one or more of three specific national-brand products to receive the Publix brand counterpart for free. Customers save an average of 10% to 30% on Publix's private label compared with national brands, according to Brous.

After the program began in a few stores in 2006, Publix expanded the program nationwide in 2007. “It just continues to grow in success for us,” Brous said.

Shoppers' interest in private label is up overall.

“Our private-label brand continues to get fans behind the products for the last five to seven years. It is not like there is all this interest all of a sudden,” Brous added.

To add value, Publix also routinely passes temporary price reductions from its suppliers on to consumers.

“We have Advantage Buys — when we receive a price reduction from our suppliers, shoppers see that [reduction] on price tags at the shelf,” she said.

“We are looking much more closely at bringing every value that we possible can,” Brous added.