Price wars

Gro­cery shop­pers who want low prices, one-stop shop­ping cu­ri­ous to see what Ama­zon has done with Whole Foods

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS - BY JOSEPH PISANI

Donna Brown vis­ited a Whole Foods for the first time in at least five months with one goal: see how much Ama­zon had cut prices.

She did buy al­mond milk, yo­gurt and lunch meat, but doesn’t plan to quit her usual gro­cers, Wal­mart and HEB, where she says she finds big­ger se­lec­tions and lower prices.

“I am a com­par­i­son shop­per,” says Brown, a part-time ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant in Austin, Texas.

Ama­zon made a splash right away as the new owner of Whole Foods, slash­ing prices Mon­day on baby kale, av­o­ca­dos and ground beef.

That at­tracted some cus­tomers, but whether shop­pers who’ve found cheaper al­ter­na­tives will come back, or those who never vis­ited will give Whole Foods a try, may help de­ter­mine what kind of ef­fect the block­buster deal has on how peo­ple get their gro­ceries.

Shop­pers who talked with The As­so­ci­ated Press this week say what they want most of all is lower prices and one-stop shop­ping.

Stores are com­pet­ing fiercely to at­tract them. Tra­di­tional su­per­mar­ket chain Kroger stressed ear­lier this year that it does not plan to “lose on price.” Tar­get is spend­ing bil­lions to re­model its stores and high­light its gro­cery sec­tion. Newer en­trants from Europe, such as dis­coun­ters Aldi and Lidl, are open­ing more U.S. stores. And Wal­mart, the coun­try’s largest gro­cer, is mak­ing it eas­ier for cus­tomers to or­der gro­ceries on­line and pick them up at the store.

Some shop­pers say they’re con­cerned with Ama­zon’s grow­ing power, while oth­ers said the near­est Whole Foods was too far away to be a fre­quent stop.

And while other su­per­mar­kets have added aisles of or­ganic and nat­u­ral prod­ucts to mimic Whole Foods, the chain still doesn’t sell some con­sumer favourites like Diet Coke, Bounty tow­els or other brands peo­ple want.

Brown said the “chichi or­ganic stuff” at Whole Foods can’t re­place her Clairol hair colour or al­lergy medicine.

“I’m go­ing to grav­i­tate to Wal­mart,” she said.

Gail John­son, a phar­macy tech­ni­cian from Cleve­land, has never been to a Whole Foods and doesn’t plan to, even af­ter hear­ing about the price cuts.

“Or­ganic food is real high ex­pen­sive, but here there’s reg­u­lar food,” John­son said while brows­ing a movie rental kiosk near the Wal­mart en­trance. “They’ve got movies, liquor, beer, ice cream; any­thing you want.”

AP PHOTO/MARK LENNIHAN

Gabriela Gar­cia, left, and her friend Raafae Ghory check their re­ceipt Mon­day af­ter shop­ping at a Whole Foods Market in New York.

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