Sunday, December 10, 2017
Business

Publix fights back against Walmart's price-comparison campaign

Publix has taken off the gloves in the fight for our grocery money.

Nearly a year after Walmart began its price-comparison ad campaign against smaller grocers, the Lakeland-based supermarket chain is battling back.

Publix has launched what amounts to a "bring it on" campaign to reassure customers that the store has affordable prices — if you shop the sales and buy-one-get-one deals. The no-frills message is clear: "Walmart doesn't always have the lowest price."

The ads started popping up a few weeks ago on area billboards and radio. Signs posted in Publix stores compare items in their weekly fliers to Walmart's, much like Walmart does in its ad campaign.

For example, this week two boxes of Mueller's pasta cost $2.72 at Walmart versus $1.37 on special at Publix. Two boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix cost $2.48 at Walmart versus $1.67 at Publix. Buy every item on sale, and you'd save $97.86.

The campaign underscores what many Publix shoppers have claimed all along, that you can save money on groceries if you do a little homework. Sure, Fancy Feast might be cheaper at Walmart, but once you factor in the BOGO deals on Thomas' English muffins and Mott's apple juice, you leave paying less.

Publix spokeswoman Shannon Patten said the ads reflect the chain's stance that meeting customers' high expectations doesn't have to mean higher prices. The campaign rolled out March 7 for its stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee.

"We want our loyal and potential customers to know that we offer more than clean stores, quality products and friendly service. We offer great value," Patten said.

Walmart isn't blind to Publix's counterattacks and has no plans of backing down. The Bentonville, Ark., chain is filming TV commercials about price-comparison shopping in 50 markets nationwide. It knows a lot of people don't like to bother with sales and coupons. Just give them the best price.

Some grocers are responding. Just last week, Giant Eagle, based in Pennsylvania, announced it was cutting the prices on more than 3,000 popular grocery items — a move expected to save customers about 15 percent on their grocery bills.

"Competitors don't like it when we tell customers to compare prices and see for themselves, but we think customers deserve the chance to find the most affordable prices possible, particularly in these difficult economic times," said Walmart spokesman Bill Wertz.

In the end, he said, competition will lead to lower prices for everyone.

Bill Wunner, owner of the website Coupon In The News, said Publix is one of the few chains nationwide to challenge Walmart's campaigns. Another is St. Louis-based Schnucks, which filed complaints with the attorneys general in Missouri and Illinois claiming Walmart's price-comparison ads are "misleading" and "willfully deceptive."

While there's always a danger of getting into a costly tit-for-tat with Walmart, Publix must have felt it couldn't sit idle any longer, Wunner said. As the dominant grocer in Florida, it has turf to defend.

"Walmart is the biggest challenge they've had so far in Florida," he said. "Publix wants its customers to shop the sales and use coupons. It doesn't want to lower prices across the board."

Before this campaign, Publix has "hidden between the lines" that it has higher prices, he said. Its motto, "Where shopping is a pleasure," doesn't come cheap.

As a Publix shopper, I interpret the ads as a reminder that, "Yes, you're a smart shopper. Don't listen to them."

Honestly, I already knew I'm a savvy shopper, but thanks for the boost. Watching two retail giants compete for my business is kind of fun.

People like it when the home team fights back.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

Comments
Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

TAMPA — Hundreds rallied near the University of South Florida on Friday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that the United States will recognize the divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.The protest was organize...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17

Duke outage leaves 7,700 without power near Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — Up to 7,700 customers across Pinellas Park, Lealman and Kenneth City lost power in a Thursday night outage, according to Duke Energy.The outage impacted a cloverleaf-shaped area of customers, with pedals extending in the cardinal dire...
Published: 12/08/17
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

Times Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — What started more than five years ago as an exploratory conversation among a handful of business leaders blossomed Friday into a full-blown community discussion of how to nurture business while working to make sure ...
Published: 12/08/17
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

In a decision driven by some major data crunching, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater next year will focus its tourism advertising on three target markets: Orlando, New York City and its Tampa Bay home."Research is going to dictate our behaviors and direction...
Published: 12/08/17
Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

TAMPA — JW Marriott, a luxury hotel brand new to Tampa, will run the new 519-room hotel that the Water Street Tampa project is building next to the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, developers announced Friday.Construction on the 26-story hotel is ...
Published: 12/08/17

Gravel spill shuts down parts of northbound Howard Frankland Bridge

TAMPA — Authorities are cleaning up a load of gravel spilled onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge on Friday afternoon, shutting down at least two lanes of traffic.The incident was reported at 2 p.m. on the stretch of the bridge drivers approac...
Published: 12/08/17
A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

By the time Teralyn Fleming could finally plead her case to get federal disability insurance, she had been waiting two years and three months. The wait was not a peaceful one — a blood clotting disorder pushed her out of the workforce in 2015 ...
Published: 12/08/17
Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin has been in a bull market like few the world has ever seen.At the beginning of the year, the price of a bitcoin was below $1,000. It hit $5,000 in October, then doubled by late November. And on Thursday, less than two weeks la...
Published: 12/08/17
U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a robust 228,000 jobs in November, a sign of the job market’s enduring strength in its ninth year of economic recovery. The unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, the Labor Department reported F...
Published: 12/08/17