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Tight times benefit grocery stores

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

STATEWIDE The economic slowdown hasn’t kept grocery-store carts from rolling.

As companies small and large operating across the Oregon business landscape reel from the economic downturn, value-oriented grocery stores are holding their own — for now.

“In terms of overall traffic, it’s up,” says Joe Gilliam, president of the 300-member Northwest Grocery Association. “Unfortunately, [it’s] at the expense of our friends in the restaurant industry.”

Last month, Costco Wholesale Corp., the bulk grocery retailer, announced a 7% increase nationwide in fourth-quarter profit, with overall revenue  up 13% from last year.  At Kroger, the parent company of Fred Meyer, overall earnings increased 12% in its second quarter ending in August compared to last year, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Gilliam sees a profound shift in consumers’ shopping habits at grocery stores. He says more people are seeking bargains with coupons and even more are buying in bulk. “People are filling their pantries more than they did in the past,” he says.

Gilliam also notes more shoppers fleeing high-end grocery stores such as Whole Foods to more value-based stores such as Winco Foods and Safeway. “Everyone is trying to make their bucks stretch,” he says.

The value of Whole Foods Market stock has dropped more than 30% since this time last year.  And restaurants? Total sales are down 4% for the year.     

JASON SHUFFLER


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