I have to admit being a little surprised when I came across a post by Mary Ellen Burris, senior vice president, consumer affairs at Wegmans, announcing the grocery chain was ending its seasonal price freeze program. The chain initially rolled out the freeze in 2011 in response to financial challenges its shoppers were facing, coming out of the Great Recession in 2009.
Wegmans was taking the action as a result of some improvement in economy, although, Ms. Burris wrote, "not to the degree we'd all like." Instead, the grocer plans to continue focusing on its "consistent low price" strategy.
While Wegmans attracts shoppers who may be less driven by price considerations than some others in the grocery business, the fact that it instituted the seasonal price freeze in the first place shows many were negatively affected by the recession.
To that end, an article by Jeff Cox at CNBC, points to various research findings showing that gains made by the top five percent since the Great Recession have masked "a decline of income and wealth of the bottom 95 percent."
Those findings are supported by the struggles of chains such as Walmart. A Wall Street Journal report citing Nielsen as its source, points out grocery sales have been on the decline since April. For its part, Walmart has been getting more aggressive with its pricing in an attempt to capture greater share of available grocery dollars.
Are consumers more or less price sensitive today than they were in 2011?