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Economy weak consumers strong.

This February, many shoppers had the winter doldrums longer than usual, not only because it had an extra day, but also because of layers of gloomy news about downer cattle, beef recalls, rising food and energy prices, strained incomes, the worsening housing market, as well as endless foreclosures, campaign speeches, and recession denials. The month is behind us at last, and now spring can arrive with its annual message of renewal and optimism. One of our consumers wrote:

* "Hillary finally admitted wishing that she hadn't voted for the war. It's too late for her, but I'm hoping it will encourage other people to tell the truth instead of what they think we want to hear. "

We find reasons for optimism in the mostly upbeat feedback we're getting during this period of gloom. What shoppers are saying, and the way they are saying it, shows that they may find ways to keep spending on things like groceries as long as they keep finding things they like at stores or sites, and some prices they feel good about.

* "Costco has been a wonderful place to shop with great selections and prices. And if Costco doesn't have it, Target does."

* "We are finding it more of a pleasure to shop at the Wal-Mart Superstore than at Publix these days. Their produce and produce prices are better than any of our local supermarkets (Publix, Winn-Dixie, Alberstons)--only Whole Foods and the farmer's markets have better or fresher produce. "

* "The "extra bucks" program at CVS has saved me a lot of money recently, with prices remaining lower than their competitors on prescriptions, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and shampoos."

* "Walgreen's has just recently come into our area and I've been very pleased with their store brand specials and selections. As long as I pay attention to the two-for-one specials they have at least once a month, their prices on herbals, which can be very expensive, are unbeatable, lower than the mail order companies or places like the Vitamin Store. "

* "Our Pathmark has gotten bigger, cleaner and brighter since the A & P merger. It hasn't gotten cheaper but I'm hoping it will."

* Aldi has wonderful prices, which have recently gotten even better. Amazing at a time when prices everywhere are going up. I've been shopping Aldi almost every week for several months and cannot recall being disappointed with any food or other product I bought there."

* "I love organic products, especially Horizon Organic dairy products. They are now expanding beyond milk, yogurt, butter, etc., which is great. "

* "I continue to shop at Whole Foods for certain things, and have been impressed with their efforts to hold the line on prices, which seem to be going up less than prices else where."

* "Impressed by the new safety program in place at Toys-R-Us."

* "Service has improved at Home Depot and prices are still good."

* "The prices at Ikea are amazing. If one could get in and out quickly, I'd go there a lot more often."

Most of the grumbles that we did hear were price related or ingredient related:

* "Chips and snacks are getting smaller while prices are going up."

* "Betty Crocker Muffin Mixes used to make 6 average size muffins--Now only makes 5 medium muffins."

* "Meijers has decent prices but I am tired of going out there for a special item on sale only to find they are sold out."

* "Pepsi and Coke still use NutraSweet which is cheap and unstable. I don't buy any product that uses it."

* "High fructose corn syrup in the ingredients list tells you that they've cheapened the product and you should avoid it."

* "K-Mart fired all their full-time employees and hired part-timers to cut costs. I don't go there any more."

* "Stopped going to Wal-Mart because we want to buy more things made in the U.S."
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Author:Doyle, Mona
Publication:The Shopper Report
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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