Friday, October 24, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;52.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/ovc.png;2014-10-24 17:13:27
Friday, September 5, 2014

Market Basket loyalty: It’s all about the prices

Market Basket’s famed owner Artie T. may be grateful to people’s “belief and trust in us” for supporting the company’s unusual boycott this summer, but a sampling of shoppers in competitor’s parking lots indicates their loyalty has everything to do with money.

Consider Teresa Jewett of Hudson, explaining why she wouldn’t be returning to the Hannaford store in the Hudson Mall for her next shopping visit: “They need to compete price-wise and they’re not.” ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

Market Basket’s famed owner Artie T. may be grateful to people’s “belief and trust in us” for supporting the company’s unusual boycott this summer, but a sampling of shoppers in competitor’s parking lots indicates their loyalty has everything to do with money.

Consider Teresa Jewett of Hudson, explaining why she wouldn’t be returning to the Hannaford store in the Hudson Mall for her next shopping visit: “They need to compete price-wise and they’re not.”

Jewett described herself as a Market Basket regular who had boycotted the store all summer at the request of employees, switching to Hannaford by
necessity. Interviewed outside the Hudson Hannaford on Wednesday, she said she liked the store just fine, but not enough to compensate for higher prices.

Jewett had just bought $128 worth of groceries, but only because she wanted to use the $7-off coupon that she had received on her previous visit, during the boycott.

“I’ll be back there (at Market Basket) next week,” she said.

Or consider John Jambard of Nashua, interviewed outside the Shaw’s in the Royal Ridge Mall on D.W. Highway on Wednesday.

He also described himself as a Market Basket shopper. He said he used competitors during the boycott but had gone back – his shopping trip Wednesday was “cherry picking” a few items, he said – because Shaws and Hannaford “are way too expensive.”

He said that his weekly grocery bill had been around $240 a week during the boycott, compared to about $180 a week when he shopped at Market Basket – implying that competitors are about one-third more expensive, at least for the items he chose.

The two were among two dozen customers in parking lots of area Shaw’s and Hannafords questioned this week whether the much-publicized Market Basket imbroglio had changed their habits. Neither the Shaw’s nor Hannaford’s corporate office commented, with spokespeople saying they didn’t discuss their competitors and preferred to “focus on our customers.”

The embattled, ousted, but ultimately triumphant Market Basket CEO Arthur T. Demoulas wrote a thank you letter to customers, associated and business partners” in a full-page advertisement in area newspapers Wednesday.

“Together, we will move forward to strengthen Market Basket’s reputation of being a truly great place to shop and work,” Demoulas said.

Market Basket has long had the reputation for being less expensive than its grocery competitors. The Demoulas family fight just reinforced that reputation as dozens of commenters on the Telegraph website for the many stories about the Demoulas family struggles often bemoaned the expensive of shopping elsewhere.

That reputation may help explain why Market Basket has grown in recent years, opening several new stores in southern New Hampshire, while Shaw’s has closed some stores, and Stop and Shop fled the state entirely.

But it also reveals a weakness: People lured by low prices might not stay if the advantage disappears.

Dave Huffman of Merrimack, a Market Basket regular who stopped at the Nashua Mall Hannaford to pick up a few items, said he’d happily return to Market Basket for most shopping.

But what if Market Basket lost its price advantage?

“If that happened?” he repeated, considering. “At that point, I’d go wherever it was convenient.”

One of the questions surrounding Market Basket is what effect, if any, will be felt from Arthur T. Demoulas’ buyout of his cousin, Arthur S. Demoulas. That deal reportedly cost some $1.5 billion, and the Market Basket corporation has not had to deal with such a high debt load before. Paying back a big loan – “debt service,” in corporate-speak – can put pressure on prices.

Arthur T. Demoulas pledged this week not to raise prices, saying he’ll delay some planned store openings and take other steps to absorb the debt service costs. Market Basket’s low prices have long been associated with the large number of cheaper, store-brand items than it stocks, as well as its much-admired management and logistics.

And, of course, there are more reasons than just price to choose a grocery store.

Omaya Olmo of Nashua, for example, is a Shaw’s regular.

“It’s more efficient,” she said of the Royal Ridge store. “Market Basket has good prices, but when I go there, I feel it’s stressful. It’s crowded. “

She much prefers the layout and atmosphere in the Shaw’s, she said. “It’s more comfortable, not crowded. It’s relaxing.”

In Milford, Shaw’s customer Kay Lorentz of Milford said she prefers the quality of that store, especially for more perishable items.

“Market Basket is great for things if you don’t mind that they have a short shelf life,” she said. “Not if you need things that aren’t going to go bad in 2 (or) 3 days.”

And then there’s the question of how much savings are really possible.

“I love Hannaford. ... I tried (Market Basket) a few times and I didn’t save any money,” said Rose Turmel of Nashua.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).