Grocery wars: Stores battle for customers by providing specialized shopping experiences

Central Florida shoppers have options

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Savvy consumers know they have lots of choices when it comes to where they shop, and while Florida-based Publix has a lot of the local market cornered with their clean stores, friendly service, buy-one-get-one promotions and digital coupons, new specialty grocers are giving them a run for their money.

Colorado-based Lucky's Market is making its mark with a six-store sweep of Central Florida but this gourmet grocer doesn't just focus on competitive prices and free samples. It allows customers to sip a pint of beer or glass of wine while they shop. It also has in-store dining, a rewards program and live music on weekends.

"We see people dancing up in the checkout lines as they're getting all into the music," said Tim Mathias, the store manager at the Lucky's Market Winter Park location. "It gives people a chance to try it in a fun, relaxed environment, and not be so up-tight about grocery shopping, I mean it’s not rocket science -- it’s just grocery shopping." 

Lucky's Market employee Carol Matthews said the store appeals to all sorts of shoppers.

"Husbands come here a lot, because you can get a beer, put the cup holder onto your basket," Matthews said. "They walk around the store, shop for their wives and drink a beer at the same time. Where else can you get that at?"

Arizona-based Sprouts just opened a new location in Winter Park, in the spot where Whole Foods was once located before it moved to its new location near Orange Avenue and Lee Road.

Sprouts officials said their focus is on natural, organic foods but at affordable prices. It has more of a farmers market feel, with fresh produce taking center stage.

"So we can cater to the everyday shopper that wants to make healthy food choices," said Pat Fraser, store manager at the new Sprouts Winter Park location. "We want that visual of seeing throughout the entire store when you walk in."

Fraser said they also have several vegan options that other stores don't.

Austin-based Whole Foods is known for its commitment to a higher end, higher priced organic shopping experience with a passion for high standards.

And at places like ALDI, which was started in Germany but is now headquartered in Illinois, it’s all about the lowest price.

Bravo Supermarkets, which span from New York to Florida, are independently owned and operated and try to cater to the needs of the local community.

"Times have changed," said Sean Snaith, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Economic at the University of Central Florida. "We've evolved into a nation of foodies and preferences for specialty items and organics, and so your standard run-of-the-mill grocery store can't satisfy all these interests and all these wants, and so we've seen this proliferation of these more specialty-type places popping up."

Snaith says all this local competition among grocers is a win-win for consumers.

"Whether that's on price, whether that's on experience, whether that's on a variety of offerings, it opens up a broader range of choices to consumers," Snaith said.

He adds that is forcing grocers to provide better service, better prices, better ambiance and better options as they compete for your cash, further fueling the grocery store wars. 

Best Prices: Aldi, Bravo, Walmart
Best Experience: Lucky's, Whole Foods, Sprouts
Local Favorite: Publix, Walmart, Target

How do the stores compare on some of the main items on your Thanksgiving shopping list? The prices below are based on a Nov. 15 check.

 

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