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Resilience, Relevance and Signs of Recovery

The Grocery Manufacturers Association's Merchandising, Sales and Marketing Conference gets underway today in Phoenix at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

Titled "Resilience & Relevance: Winning Strategies for a New Economy" the theme suggests reason for optimism, and that marketers who've successfully weathered the storm have turned a corner and are headed toward a new beginning.

While Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Winn-Dixie and Meijer are among the retailers scheduled to share their strategies for minimizing costs, reinventing the shopper experience and getting the right product in the right place at the right time, there are countless other examples of retailers successfully preparing for a new economy.

On Sunday Wegmans launched a new campaign focused on highlighting prices that are now even lower than they were last year when the retailer slashed hundreds of prices on commonly used products. A drop in transportation costs made the new cuts possible in categories like beef, pork, chicken, bread, dairy and produce, according to the retailer.

“I have a sense that shoppers need to be reassured," said Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman, in a statement. "They need to know that we have kept our eye on the ball. That we monitor prices very closely and take steps to control our costs so we can keep prices low, and that what has happened to food prices is a cause for celebration.”

While many shoppers remain committed to grocery lists, a shelf tag indicating that the per pound cost of a Club Pack of boneless chicken breast has dropped 26%, from $2.69 per pound, to $1.97, is probably enough to convince them to whip up some chicken parmesan and other tasty recipes with the five pounds of chicken that hadn't counted on.

Among the other examples; Sirloin Steak Club Packs, last year $3.89 per pound, this year $3.49 (down 10%); tomatoes on the vine, last year $2.49, this year $1.99 (down 20%); and Wegmans Sharp cheddar shredded cheese, 8 ounces, last year $2.49, this year $1.99 (down 20%).

The strategy is particularly clever since it zeros in on products for which Wegmans has the most cost control: store brands. Price comparisons will appear in-store and in sales circulars through the next few weeks.

In the meantime, stay tuned for coverage of economy-inspired strategies from GMA's MSM show.