After supermarket food prices rose sharply in 2008, today I noticed a huge number of items on sale at my local Ralph’s. There were yellow sale tags on everything from strawberries to eggs to Lay’s potato chips. This was very dangerous for me, as I have just gotten over a three-day stomach virus during which I ate almost nothing, and now have all kinds of new food cravings (although I’m not quite ready to think about that Hot Dog Death March).
So, what’s going on at Ralph’s? Has business dropped off, requiring it to slash prices? Obviously, in the midst of a severe economic recession, the prices of many things, from houses to cars, have plummeted. Restaurants and other businesses are offering all kinds of deals to hold onto business. But, since food is a staple, I would have thought that supermarkets like Ralph’s were immune to downturns. In fact, I thought Ralph’s would do better, as people eat at home more during the recession.
What else could it be? Are area consumers downgrading their Ralph’s and Pavillion’s supermarket food shopping to Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, and Costco? Did last winter’s sharp drop in gasoline prices (note, however, that they’re now climbing back big time) cause a plunge in trucking costs that, months later, has found its way to the supermarket shelves?
Or maybe I have it totally backwards. Maybe the neighborhood isn’t feeling the recession at all, and the Whole Foods that opened a couple of miles North on Lincoln Boulevard last fall is taking away Ralph’s business. After all, at Whole Foods, $60 buys you one whole bag of groceries. If you’re lucky.