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Grocery wars; Wal-Mart Supercenter wins out over other markets in Leominster area.

Byline: Lisa Eckelbecker

LEOMINSTER - One year after opening its Supercenter off Route 117 and jumping into the Leominster supermarket scene, Wal-Mart is the cheapest place to buy a basket of commonly purchased groceries.

The Telegram & Gazette surveyed the prices of 12 items at four supermarkets one year ago and then again last week in an effort to determine whether competition from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., of Bentonville, Ark., would drive down food prices at competing stores.

The answer to that question is unclear. In fact, when the survey started, the cheapest grocery basket was at Market Basket market basket
1. A grocery cart.

2. A group of products or services in a specific market, especially when considered in terms of its fluctuating cost in determining a consumer price index:
, a store owned by Demoulas Supermarkets Inc. of Tewksbury.

But in the year since Wal-Mart opened, Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford slashed slash  
v. slashed, slash·ing, slash·es
1. To cut or form by cutting with forceful sweeping strokes: slash a path through the underbrush.

 the price of a grocery basket by 12 percent. Market Basket managed to beat Wal-Mart on price in a number of categories, sometimes by just a few pennies.

In the end, Wal-Mart won the price survey this year mostly because it offered the best deal on coffee and lowered the price of its own grocery basket by 8 percent over the last year.

The largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart sells more than $100 billion in groceries in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  through its traditional stores and Supercenters. The company leverages its huge buying power Buying Power

The money an investor has available to buy securities. In a margin account, the buying power is the total cash held in the brokerage account plus maximum margin available.

Also referred to as "Excess Equity.
 to get the best prices from suppliers. It cuts out middlemen to streamline its supply chain, which also saves money.

Wal-Mart has been slow to develop Supercenters in Massachusetts, where large tracts of real estate have traditionally been scarce and expensive. But in recent years, Wal-Mart has opened Supercenters in Northbridge, Leicester, Ware and Leominster. It is developing another Supercenter in Worcester.

In a study released last year, University of Massachusetts The system includes UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth (affiliated with Cape Cod Community College), UMass Lowell, and the UMass Medical School. It also has an online school called UMassOnline.  at Amherst researchers calculated that families living within five miles of a Wal-Mart Supercenter could save $88 to $223 per person each year on food by shopping exclusively at Wal-Mart. Families shopping at other stores within five miles of a Supercenter could expect to save $37 to $104 per person each year.

Wal-Mart's presence forces competitors to act, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 UMass Resource Economist Nathalie Lavoie.

"One way or another, they have to do something, and I think it's either pricing or quality of service or a combination of both," she said.

In Leominster, a basket of milk, eggs, bread, produce, coffee, ground beef, tomato sauce, pasta and frozen waffles, sold for $27.51 at Wal-Mart last week. The same basket cost $29.34 at Hannaford, $29.76 at Market Basket and $33.68 at Shaw's.

Over the last year, all four stores dropped their prices on milk and eggs. Bread costs went up everywhere. Hannaford slashed prices on carrots and apples over the last year. Wal-Mart offered the best price on Ragu tomato sauce in both surveys.

Michael R. Norton, a spokesman for Hannaford Bros BROS Brothers
BROS Benefits and Retirement Operations Section (King County, Washington)
BROS Barnes and Richmond Operatic Society (London, UK) 
. Co., said the chain is accustomed to competing with Supercenters in other markets and was able to wring wring  
v. wrung , wring·ing, wrings
1. To twist, squeeze, or compress, especially so as to extract liquid. Often used with out.

 out freight and corporate expenses over the past year. The company's top focus is price, particularly on items such as milk, followed by quality, convenience and healthy food, he said.

"If you're good on those items (milk), people are going to come back to you again," Mr. Norton said. "We have a lot of incentive to be priced right on those kinds of things."

Shaw's Supermarkets This article is about Shaw's Supermarkets. For the historic original Star Market chain owned by the Mugar family, see Star Market.

Shaw's, along with sister store, Star Market, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Supervalu.
 Inc. of West Bridgewater, part of SUPERVALU Inc., also focuses on a combination of factors, including convenience, service, selection, freshness, the experience in stores and price, according to Shaw's spokeswoman Judy Chong. It offers loyal shoppers discounts on gasoline gasoline or petrol, light, volatile mixture of hydrocarbons for use in the internal-combustion engine and as an organic solvent, obtained primarily by fractional distillation and "cracking" of petroleum, but also obtained from natural gas, by  purchases.

"We keep our eye on the competition, in whichever market we may be in, but our focus is on customers and we know how to deliver value to them," she said.

Spokesmen for Wal-Mart and Market Basket did not respond to requests for comment.

For shoppers, the competition with Wal-Mart likely means more choice.

"You knew when that came into town that there was going to be a competition," said Sandie Chacon of Leominster, who is the city's small business coordinator.

Her sister, Sue Williams Sue Williams (November 14, 1945 in Glendale, California — September 2, 1969 in Los Angeles, California) was an actress and Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Month for April 1965. Her centerfold was photographed by Ed DeLong and William V. Figge.  of Leominster, said she mainly shops at Market Basket for its prices and because it offers the food she likes.

"I don't really shop there (Wal-Mart) for a whole lot just because they don't have the variety I typically want," she said. "I go there for quick stuff, like milk and quick sandwich stuff."

Lisa L. Vallee of Leominster favors Hannaford for its location close to downtown, produce and organic offerings.

"It is a little more pricey Pricey

Term used for an unrealistically low bid price or unrealistically high offer price.


Of, relating to, or being an unrealistically high offer. An offer to sell a security at $50 when the current market price is $47 is pricey.
, but I find the convenience, given the constraints of a working schedule, outweighs the few dollars savings," said Mrs. Vallee, the city's economic development coordinator.

Most grocers don't want to compete with Wal-Mart on price, according to Jim According to Jim is an American situation comedy television series originally broadcast by ABC. The show premiered with little publicity in October 2001, following the surprise hit comedy My Wife and Kids.  Hertel, managing partner of Willard Bishop, a retail consulting firm Noun 1. consulting firm - a firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee
consulting company

business firm, firm, house - the members of a business organization that owns or operates one or more establishments; "he worked for a
 in Barrington, Ill. Wal-Mart can cut prices deeper and longer than typical supermarkets, he said, and most grocery retailers would rather compete by focusing on factors such as location, convenience and quality.

"They need to be aware of what Wal-Mart prices are and develop a fairly sophisticated and nuanced approach to it," Mr. Hertel said. "You don't want to have any what I call `insult prices' in the store, and you want to make sure people know how to shop your store so they find the best values."


CUTLINE: (PHOTO) Wal-Mart Supercenter (CHARTS) Comparing prices // A look at select grocery items at Leominster food stores.

PHOTOG pho·tog  
n. Informal
A person who takes photographs, especially as a profession; a photographer.
: (PHOTO) T&G Staff Photo/DAN GOULD (CHARTS) Prices compiled by Lisa Eckelbecker; T&G Staff/DON LANDGREN JR.
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Title Annotation:MONEY
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 7, 2009
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