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Winn-Dixie drops prices on 400 frequently purchased items

 
To try to keep up in a heated grocery store battle, Winn-Dixie is lowering the prices on more than 400 of its most popular items. LARA CERRI  |   Times
To try to keep up in a heated grocery store battle, Winn-Dixie is lowering the prices on more than 400 of its most popular items. LARA CERRI | Times
Published Jan. 6, 2016

Winn-Dixie plans to go head-to-head with its competition on price this year, starting with a new program that will drop prices on hundreds of items in stores beginning today.

The campaign called "Down Down" will discount more than 400 items in all stores. The items were chosen because they were the most frequently purchased by customers, said Ian McLeod, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, the Jacksonville-based parent company of Winn-Dixie.

A Sanderson Farms whole chicken will now sell for $1 per pound, where it used to be $1.49 per pound. A loaf of the Winn-Dixie brand sliced white or wheat bread is now $1, as opposed to $1.99. Prices are guaranteed for at least six months.

The Down Down campaign launches just two months after Winn-Dixie permanently rolled back prices on more than 1,500 staple items. There will be more waves of discounts in 2016, McLeod said in a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.

"Any sort of customer group you look at, the general view, regardless of where they shop, is that they feel prices are too high," he said. "Keeping prices low is a key part of our strategy, and we've worked hard to improve the efficiency of our business."

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McLeod joined Southeastern Grocers in March after spending most of his career working with supermarket chains and retail companies in Australia and the United Kingdom. Since then, he has worked to clean up Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo stores and add better quality products to the shelves.

"We weren't as tidy as we could have been and the availability of products could have been better," McLeod said about the state of stores when he arrived last year. "I think customers would say it's better than it was."

The biggest difference between grocery stores in the United States and overseas? Customers' tastes, McLeod said.

"There is little difference in what they want — everyone wants low prices, a clean store and good products," he said. "But the tastes are very different. When I arrived in the U.S., I never had chicken and waffles before."

Next year, the company will focus on remodeling older stores across the Southeast and continue to focus on value prices, McLeod said.

Winn-Dixie has struggled in recent years to compete for market share in Florida, where grocery giants Publix Super Markets and Walmart dominate the landscape. By lowering its price point, Winn-Dixie will take on Walmart for value-based shoppers and also discount brands such as Aldi and Save-a-Lot, which have been expanding across the Sunshine State.

The Down Down campaign is expected to save the average Winn-Dixie customer $700 a year. Winn-Dixie stores anticipate losing $70 million in revenue by dropping prices.

Winn-Dixie is partnering with Dolly Parton to promote the program in television ads and will use a sports-themed red foam finger in print advertisements and to point out items with the new low prices in the store.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com. Follow @SunBizGriffin.