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By now you’ve probably realized that grocery prices vary between regions and that some regions have better deals than others. This week I got an email from someone finding different prices within the same chain of stores in the same city. I know it may be upsetting to realize, but this is very common. I would venture to say every chain does this. The stores can even be 5 miles apart, they will have different prices.
Why price differences in the same city?
In general every store needs to have the same chance of profit. A store may be in a higher retail area paying more in rent or property taxes, that will be rolled out in small price changes throughout the store.
Another big contributing factor are nearby competitor grocery stores. If grocery stores are competing, you could either see higher or lower prices than other stores simply because they are more focused on their competition than keeping all the prices within a region the same. If they feel that their competition regularly marks items higher then they do, they may actually raise prices slightly. If a Walmart or discount store moves in with-in a few miles you may see prices drop slightly as they try to remain competitive.
Remember too that you will also see product differences between stores in the same city. A higher end side of town will tend to carry more trendy products priced higher. With their trendier products and wider product selection this may actually raise store costs as those items may not move as quickly as other products. They want to offer what will be asked for from their clientele but also will incur loss if the produce isn’t sold etc.
What can you do?
I am a numbers person so when we first moved to the area, I hit a few different stores and noted their price of some staple items for our family. Milk, bread, cereal, etc. You want to note their full price not sales price as this will help you to see the price difference better between stores. I quickly was able to compare three different Publix stores and two Bi-Lo stores all with-in 7 miles of my house. The Publix that is built in the center of a major shopping area consistently had prices 50¢ or more per item versus the Publix less than a mile from me that is a more rural area. When a Walmart was built down the road a couple years ago we saw prices at that more rural Publix drop another 25¢ on average on those staple items!
Once you compare prices the next big decision is to decide whether the price difference will make up for extra time and gas if you end up having to go farther to shop. For some of you the answer is no, others it may mean 2 more miles and at 50¢ per item it is well worth it.
In general there are three key things that may help in picking a store…
Stay away from areas that are high retail, it means higher rent for that store or at least higher property taxes
Choose stores away from destinations. In other words if you are headed to the beach, do you shopping either before you go or in the town before the beach itself. If I’m headed to the beach near Charleston SC for example I want to do my shopping in Summerville not Mount Pleasant (and really not in the Big Red on the island!).
If you live along state or country lines learn what area has lower sales tax. For example if you live in NC on the border between NC and SC… guess what we don’t have sales tax on food in most SC counties. In my area while there is no state sales tax, one county has put a 1% tax on food that another county doesn’t have. So think about where stores are located for that extra savings.
Do you have any tips on finding the cheapest store in your area to shop at?
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