Grocery operators in the Southeast, one of the areas hardest-hit by the weak economy, are focusing on meal deals and ham and turkey giveaways, and emphasizing low prices on staples to help consumers get through the difficult holiday season.
Some chains, including Ingles Markets, Asheville, N.C., and Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., are offering free turkeys to shoppers who use their rewards card, or spend a designated amount of money on groceries in November.
In addition to high fuel costs and other expenses that the rest of the U.S. is experiencing, residents in the Southeast are faced with high unemployment rates and a high rate of foreclosures linked to the credit crisis and mortgage fraud. In Florida alone, the unemployment rate hit 6.6% in September, a 14-year high for the state, and there were a reported 48,000 foreclosures during the same month.
“Probably worse than anywhere, Florida shoppers are suffering from the economy,” said Nicole LeBeau Gavin, a spokeswoman for Sweetbay Supermarket, Tampa, Fla. As a result, Sweetbay is primarily emphasizing its everday-low-price strategy, which locks in prices for 13 to 17 weeks at a time, helping the retailer to maintain consistent pricing despite economic pressures.
“We don't change our prices week after week as some of our competitors do,” LeBeau Gavin said.
Still, for the holidays, Sweetbay is showing shoppers how they can “Feed Four for Under $40” for Thanksgiving dinner.
Providing them various examples via hypothetical shopping lists, one list details the prices on a 10-pound turkey, a box of stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin pie and other items, which add up to $39.37.
Bruno's Supermarkets, Birmingham, Ala., which operates Bruno's and Food World stores, has a Thanksgiving and Christmas rewards program centered around ham. From Nov. 5 through Dec. 31, shoppers who spend $50 or more in one purchase receive one token. After collecting seven or more tokens, they can redeem them for a free Smithfield spiral half ham, or a coupon for 10% off their next grocery bill.
“These promotions are designed to bring more customers through the doors and increase sales, reward our current shoppers and attract new customers,” said Ray England, senior vice president of marketing and perishable merchandising for Bruno's.
Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., and Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla., are both promoting their cooked deli turkey meals leading up to Thanksgiving, recognizing that customers want cost-effective meal solutions. Winn-Dixie is offering its “Turkey Dinner Feast” for eight to 10 people for $54.99, and its “Turkey Deluxe Dinner” for six to eight for $44.99.
Meanwhile, Publix's cooked turkey dinner for seven to 10 people, which includes a 10- to 12-pound turkey and four sides, is priced at $45.99.
“For the holidays, we still focus on our holiday deli meals and side dishes. Our customers are still looking for meal solutions,” said Maria Brous, a spokeswoman for Publix.
Publix also recently posted on its website and in its in-store circulars a “Terrific Prices for Tough Times” promotion featuring discounted prices on seven staple items. In the flier, Publix offers Western lettuce for 79 cents a head, Publix milk for $3.69 a gallon and Tide 2X 50-ounce for $5.99 each.
In addition, Publix continues to emphasize its weekly buy-one, get-one-free program, as well as its store-brand products.
Bruno's is taking a similar tack, letting shoppers know it wants to help them save money on their grocery staples throughout the holiday season.
In late October, Bruno's launched its “Power of 10” promotion, which highlights 10 everyday items at “rock bottom prices” every week, England said.
“Playing off our summer promotion of low prices on everyday basics, Bruno's is bringing basics back with low prices on milk, bread and ground chuck,” he said.
In addition, Bruno's and Food World stores have added more in-store coupons in their weekly circulars, featuring discounts on holiday items and other merchandise.
Bruno's executives believe holiday food and nonfood sales may be up this year, because consumers will be preparing meals at home to save money.
“There is the potential for more money to be spent this year on holiday-related groceries, as people look for simple meal and gift solutions for the holidays,” England said.
To that end, Bruno's hosted a holiday preview event in all of its stores on Nov. 6 called “Taste of Bruno's,” featuring solutions for parties, hostess' gifts, dinners, desserts and other holiday items.
“For both banners, we've increased our outside sales efforts, and focused in stores on appealing to customers' desires for home-cooked, yet simple, solutions,” England said. “That focus includes prepared meals, meal deals, demonstration of easy meal solutions, recipes and combined savings on items that go together to make a meal.”