business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB reader:

It does not surprise me that chains like Winco, Grocery Outlet, etc. are doing so well dealing with inflationary pressures. IMHO, retailers like these two and others you mentioned in your missive understand what the customer wants today, low prices, good value, clean stores, and making it easy to shop up and down all aisles. Witness, Albertsons, Safeway, Fred Meyer, etc. they advertise certain category skus at a hot price, but in order to get that hot price, you have to buy 3-4-5 of that item to get the ad price. To heck with them, many consumers will go elsewhere to get the same items at a good price and only buys 1 or 2 for their needs.

Wake up major retailers, many customers don’t need 4-5-6 items. The two categories that irk me that the aforementioned retailers use for multiple purchase, to get the hot advertised price  requirements are soft drinks and cereal. My wife and I go to another retailer to buy these aforementioned needs that do not require multiple purchases to get the advertised price. FYI, many of my retired food industry friends have exited Fred Meyer and Safeway as their primary go-to retailers. I have written about my concerns as a long time customer about these multiple purchase requirements to the local Safeway and Fred Meyer division VP’s in the past year, but have not received a reply from either chain VP. 

And responding to the fact that a European private-equity firm is buying a controlling stake in Eataly, one MNB reader wrote:

I lived in Chicago when Eataly opened there. Always meant to stop in, but just never made. I was back in Chicago this summer and finally got there.  Ugh… what a disappointment. Terrible service, prices seemed high, and while the offerings looked interesting, it didn’t seem that special. The upscale Italian deli in my town is a better place to go.

I think that Eataly is an acquired taste - sometimes a little too precious for its own good, and almost always high-priced.

But … I also think that the pandemic was not kind to formats like Eataly, which depend on high local and tourist traffic and high service levels.  That's not an excuse for disappointing customers, but it is an explanation.  But fixing the problems has to be a high priority.

I agree with you on one thing - a really good local Italian deli almost always will be more accessible than an Eataly.