Giant Eagle low prices


Well, Kroger has certainly conditioned us to take the bad along with the good. Recent announcements unveiling “new lower prices” in various regions have been accompanied by corresponding announcements that double coupons would also be ending. So it was with that in mind, that Giant Eagle shoppers approached their store’s own recent “new lower prices” announcement with a bit of distrust and dread.

“New lower prices on more than 2,000 items,” Thursday’s announcement from the Pittsburgh-based grocery chain read. Okay, so what’s the catch? “By lowering everyday prices on popular fresh and grocery items throughout the store, Giant Eagle continues to strengthen the overall value provided,” it continued. Sounds good – but when is the other shoe going to drop? “Giant Eagle is demonstrating its commitment to find more ways to help customers save.” All right already, what about double coupons? “Giant Eagle’s price reduction activities build on the many ways the company helps customers save, including… the doubling of manufacturer coupons up to $0.99.”

Wow, lower prices and double coupons, too? Kroger could learn a little something from that.

But not so fast. Giant Eagle Senior Vice President of Merchandising John Tedesco made a curious comment in one local news story about the price reductions. Giant Eagle “has stuck with doubling coupons up to 99 cents,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, “although Mr. Tedesco said that is becoming less important to customers.”

Well, that’s a less-than-ringing endorsement of coupon users’ much-loved perk.

So was the mention of double coupons in the low-prices announcement an indication that Giant Eagle is committed to continuing with double coupons? Or was Tedesco’s comment meant to lay the groundwork and prepare customers for the idea that double coupons might eventually be replaced with more price cuts?

When contacted for clarification, a Giant Eagle spokesman wouldn’t quite say. But his endorsement of double coupons was no less tepid. “As an organization we continually evaluate national and regional consumer trends to ensure that we deliver these savings opportunities in ways that resonate with our customers,” spokesman Daniel Donovan told Coupons in the News. “For instance, the use and availability of printed manufacturer coupons has decreased in recent years as the popularity of digital coupons has increased, and as a result we have continued to enhance our eOffers digital coupons.”


In other words, yes, we still offer double coupons. For now.

Some Giant Eagle locations tried doing away with double coupons several years ago, then quickly backtracked after customers complained. But maybe it was just ahead of the curve back then. Giant Eagle competes head-to-head with Kroger in several Ohio and West Virginia markets, so you can bet that it’s closely watching what Kroger is doing. Kroger has made similar arguments lately to justify the elimination of double coupons, saying that paper coupon use is declining and digital coupon use is on the rise.

But the numbers don’t quite support either claim. Yes, coupon use has decreased recently, but only because it hit historic highs a few years ago. The latest statistics show that coupon redemption rates have simply returned to pre-recession levels. And while digital coupon use is certainly on the rise – up 234% in the first six months of this year – they still represent a minuscule 2.5% of all coupons redeemed.

So there’s a bit of self-interest involved, in Kroger and Giant Eagle pushing their own digital coupon programs, over double coupon promotions they have to fund out of their own pockets. And while doubles are beloved by couponers, they don’t carry nearly the same promotional oomph that they used to. Announcing a major price-cutting campaign gets shoppers’ attention, and good press, more than simply saying “we still double coupons” does.

Still, some shoppers are expressing skepticism and even suspicion about Giant Eagle’s announcement. “I would like to believe that Giant Eagle has tried to lower prices, but not enough,” wrote one commenter on the store’s Facebook page. “Giant Eagle is too expensive! And this is the best they can do?” commented another.

But consider the alternative. New York-based Wegmans recently announced that, due to the improving economy, it would be ending its price-freeze program that locked in low prices on a number of popular items.

Giant Eagle, on the other hand, is not ready to declare the recession over. “Even as perception of the economy improves,” its price-cut announcement reads, “grocery shopping trends suggest that consumer confidence remains lukewarm” and “price is still a dominating factor when selecting a grocery store.” Therefore, its $40 million price investment is the second such cost-cutting campaign this year alone.

Just watch out if there’s a third. So far, Giant Eagle is paying for the price cuts by acquiring more items in bulk and improving efficiencies that allow for more sales and less waste. But if it needs to fund another round of price cuts, it may start taking a closer look at the money it’s spending on doubling coupons. After all, that’s “becoming less important to customers.” So if it’s important to you, better enjoy it – while it lasts.


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