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Winn-Dixie trying to stand out by lowering prices of staple items

In an effort to stand out in a crowded grocery scene, Winn-Dixie is lowering prices on staple items that people might keep in their pantries. The pricing starts this week. LARA CERRI  |   Times
In an effort to stand out in a crowded grocery scene, Winn-Dixie is lowering prices on staple items that people might keep in their pantries. The pricing starts this week. LARA CERRI | Times
Published Oct. 29, 2015

Florida residents have a lot of grocery shopping options.

Publix is king, with buy-one-get-one deals and top-notch customer service. Greenies and foodies can hit Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or the Fresh Market. Walmart sells everything and is sometimes cheaper. Save-A-Lot or Aldi also offer deep discounts.

In an effort to stand out from the pack, Winn-Dixie unveiled a new price-reduction program Wednesday that aims to save customers money on the staples they keep in their pantry.

The new pricing system, which began this week, will permanently reduce the cost of nearly 1,500 items sold in all Winn-Dixie stores, even when they're not on sale, said Ian McLeod, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, the Jacksonville-based parent company of Winn-Dixie.

"We have intently listened to our customers and conducted research that has shown our customers are constantly looking for lower prices, wherever they shop," McLeod said. "We firmly believe we've taken a big step in meeting the expectations that our customers have put on us to offer the very best in quality and value as a grocer they can trust."

It's an effort that may help Winn-Dixie find its place in Florida's highly competitive grocery scene, said Steve Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Retailing Education and Research Center at the University of Florida.

"They've got to do something to distinguish themselves from the big guys, Publix and Walmart," Kirn said. "You can't just be 'almost a Publix.' You need to have something else to say.

"This gives them a chance to carve out a sliver in the marketplace where they can have an identity," he added. "It's a way to get a customer's attention and provide them with a viable alternative. People could come to the store to save on staple items but pick up a steak or something in the meantime. But the deals have to be worth it to get them there."

McLeod said prices will be reduced by almost 20 percent on items like Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Domino granulated sugar. Some items' prices will be reduced as much as 53 percent. All reduced items are "family favorites," a classification given to items Winn-Dixie customers purchase regularly.

Shoppers will be able to pick out these products by new signs in the stores and by special price tags. They also will still occasionally go on sale.

Winn-Dixie has struggled in the past to keep up with Publix in terms of customer service, and its prices are usually more expensive than the deep discount supermarkets like Save-A-Lot, Aldi or even dollar store chains that have begun to sell groceries. Southeastern Grocers announced it would lay off 250 workers in seven states, including some at its headquarters in Jacksonville, earlier this month.

Winn-Dixie stores have frozen prices in the past, where certain merchandise price tags won't change for 10 weeks or more during specific promotions. But this is permanent.

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"Many of our competitors are following existing models they believe are best for their business. We expect to see our customers shop more with us because we're giving them what they've said is most important — lower prices," McLeod said.