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Publix Charlotte

The Southeast’s leading supermarket chain made a long-anticipated move northward this week. But there’s one thing that Publix neglected to bring to its grand opening in North Carolina – double coupons. Now, there’s concern among Publix shoppers in several other states that the days of double coupons in their own stores may be numbered.

And Publix’s carefully worded statement to Coupons in the News doesn’t do much to tamp down the speculation.

Florida-based Publix opened its first North Carolina store in Charlotte on Wednesday. It explained to new customers all about its buy-one-get-one-free deals, its vaunted customer service, and how a loyalty card is neither offered nor necessary to enjoy special savings.

Oh, and by the way, it won’t be doubling coupons there.

“After much research and consideration done while preparing to launch our new Charlotte Division, we found that we can pass along greater savings to more customers through other promotional offerings and pricing strategies,” a store spokesperson said in a Facebook posting. “Many of these savings opportunities will be offered and piloted exclusively for our customers in this division.”

The decision also means that two recently-opened locations in Fort Mill and Indian Land, South Carolina, just across the state line from Charlotte, will no longer double coupons as they have since October.

The thought of Publix not offering to double the value of coupons up to 50 cents seems inconceivable to many shoppers in the rest of South Carolina, along with Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. But double coupons are actually a relatively recent development in the 84-year-old Publix’s long history.

Once confined to Florida, Publix has grown into a regional powerhouse. Operating in just six states, but with a dense network of 1,082 stores across the Southeast, it’s become the third largest traditional supermarket chain in the country, behind Kroger and Safeway.

Publix has long resisted offering double coupons in its home base of Florida (“We use other merchandising techniques that we feel benefit our customers more,” onetime president Mark Hollis once explained.) Besides, Publix is so dominant in Florida, it doesn’t really need to offer any additional incentives.

When Publix expanded outside Florida for the first time, opening a store in Georgia in 1991, it didn’t double coupons there either. A number of competitors did, though – some even offered triple coupons in the early 90’s, to keep shoppers away from new Publix stores opening nearby. It wasn’t until 2003 that Publix decided to make a strategic move, and offer double coupons in nearly all of its stores outside Florida.

But a decade later, Publix’s top competitor had a change of heart about double coupons. Last year, as part of its move to phase out doubling in many of its divisions across the country, Kroger announced it would no longer double coupons in the majority of markets where it competes with Publix, including Georgia, South Carolina and parts of Alabama and Tennessee.

When asked whether Publix planned to eventually respond in kind, especially given its decision not to double coupons in North Carolina, Publix spokesperson Brenda Reid was measured in her response. “Even though our competitors have changed their coupon strategy, Publix has not changed its double coupon strategy for the current Atlanta Division stores,” she told Coupons in the News.

Note the use of the present tense (or the present perfect tense negative, for the grammarians among us.) Publix “has not changed” its policies, but there’s no guarantee it won’t. Reid did not elaborate on Publix’s future plans, nor offer any details about the “exclusive savings opportunities” in the Charlotte division that her colleague mentioned on Facebook. By definition, any programs that are “piloted” there could ultimately be replicated in other divisions.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that coupon policy changes may not be imminent at all. It would be a lot easier (and a much better PR move) for Publix to change its mind in the future and decide to offer double coupons in the Charlotte division, than it would be to enter the market with doubles, then decide to eliminate them later on. It could also be a sign of confidence – or cockiness – that Publix believes it can take on Charlotte’s own double-, super-double and triple-coupon-offering Harris Teeter without similar offers of its own.

And with Harris Teeter now a division of Kroger, there’s no telling how much longer it might offer doubles and triples anyway.

So while it’s too early for Publix shoppers to panic, the phaseout of double coupons in other Publix locations remains a distinct possibility. Most of South Carolina’s Publix stores, for example, were recently absorbed into the new Charlotte Division. So it may seem reasonable to conclude that eventually the entire division will have one consistent coupon policy.

And eventually, the entire chain might even have one consistent coupon policy. Whether that policy includes double coupons, or other “savings opportunities”, is something that many Publix shoppers are already very eager to find out.

Image source: Publix

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Could Publix Be Next to Ditch Double Coupons? – Coupons in the News | Self Sustained Living Today

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