Are mid-week circulars better for supermarkets?

Feb 18, 2014

Kroger announced last week it was planning to standardize the release of its weekly ads online and across all its stores on Wednesdays. With the move, the chain apparently joins a quiet trend in the supermarket industry.

Previously, Kroger’s weekly sales may have started on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the city, according to Safeway and Albertsons also start their sales cycles on Wednesday. Publix’s starts on Thursday

With the shift, effective Mar. 5, Kroger’s store associates can reset stores on a quieter Tuesday rather than Saturday, the busiest shopping day of the week. Shoppers also gain more time to plan their weekend shopping trips and take advantage of discounts before the weekend. The specials will run from Wednesday through the following Tuesday.

"By allowing our customers to purchase items before the busy weekend, we hope to help them save money and time," said Glynn Jenkins, director of communications and public relations for Kroger’s Atlanta Division, in a statement received by the Atlanta Business Journal.

Schnucks supermarkets likewise last year moved to standardize its circular delivery to Wednesday, partly because it wanted to make the drops consistent in all markets. Resets would also previously take place on the weekend. In the St. Louis area, the ad cycle had started on Monday.

"Our thought is our concentration should be on serving customers when they shop on Saturday and Sunday," a Schnucks spokesperson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time.

The downside of the mid-day shift is that circulars in some markets aren’t hitting mailboxes when competitors are arriving. Sunday circulation also can be two to three times that of mid-week papers, although some grocers such as Publix are sending out the same circular mailer both mid-week and on Sunday. For some shoppers, the mid-week circular disturbs the routine of leisurely reading the Sunday circular.

Mid-week sales cycles aren’t yet pervasive. In New York City, only relative newbies Whole Foods and Aldi start their sales cycle on Wednesday. Key Food, Pathmark, Associated Supermarkets, Gristedes and C-Town all start on Friday. Fine Foods and Met Foods start on Sunday.

What do you think is the best day for grocers to begin their weekly ad cycle? Why does it apparently differ in different areas for even some national grocers?

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15 Comments on "Are mid-week circulars better for supermarkets?"

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Frank Riso

I have always been more of a traditionalist with the ads starting on Sunday. However, I do like the idea of starting the ads on Wednesday just for better customer service. It may have been confusing to shoppers to see one price on Saturday and a different price on Sunday with so many shoppers only able to shop on the weekend. A number of them would need to shop both days in order to take advantage of the sale items.

It also should be a cost savings to the store. Doing price changes on Sunday costs more labor dollars then during the week. Will the weekly price changes also move to the middle of the week? The weekly increases and decreases not related to the sales program and what impact will that have on the stores retail based inventory management? It should all change in order to keep costs down and all changes at one time, sales and weekly changes during the middle of the week and let the bean counters figure it all out for inventory management.

Mohamed Amer

A Wednesday kickoff of the weekly promo cycle helps to keep the store personnel focused on serving their customers on the busy Saturday/Sunday shopping days. In our valley in southern California, Sprouts and Vons have had a Wednesday start to the cycle.

Additionally, it’s almost anachronistic to be still thinking of the “leisurely reading” of the Sunday circulars. Time is the true scarce resource. It’s been 50 years since Bob Dylan recorded “The Times They Are a-Changin'” – it’ll eventually catch up here as well.

Ron Margulis

Here in Metro NYC, the leading supermarkets have long started their weekly sales cycle on Sunday, with the circular being sent out the previous Weds. This does lead to some shopper confusion, especially late Saturdays when customers may expect one price and get another.

I like the idea of sales starting Monday and going through the week for a few reasons – it allows the store to set the aisles with promos more effectively, stock isn’t left out on the floor Saturday night so it’s easier for shoppers to shop and it could boost sales on a typically slow day. Out-of-stocks and overstocks could certainly be an issue as the sale winds down on Sunday, but I would hope retailers are implementing some kind of inventory optimization technology to help with that anyway.

Ryan Mathews

Pick a day and stick to it is the best rule of thumb here — Wednesdays are as good as any other day, and better than some.

The real question is, “How long are circulars going to be viable?”

With newspapers rapidly becoming the endangered species of the media ecosystems and more and more consumers becoming comfortable with digital couponing, shopper alerts and even customized deal offerings, the handwriting may be on the wall for circulars which — I suspect — are already more popular with entrenched retail folks than they are with shoppers.

Tony Orlando

Our ad breaks on Thursday, and it is easier to prepare, as Wednesday is our slowest day. The weekend business is stronger, and reordering backup of sale items is easier to figure out. It has been a good move switching the days, and we’ll stay with it.

J. Peter Deeb

This sounds like a move back to the days when Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were the big shopping days (I know I am showing my age!) The idea of utilizing the slower early week period to set up the new displays, etc., will probably work better for night crews as well as deliveries of promotional merchandise. Being in stock on the weekend is critical and setting up earlier will also give stores an opportunity to restock for extra sales or unexpected runs on features.

Anne Howe

My only hope is that shopper input and preference is driving the decisions retailers are making. Anything to eliminate shopper confusion is a good move. The change from Saturday pricing to Sunday pricing drives this shopper crazy. I’m glad for this change, to be sure.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

What day I think is best is not relevant? What is best for consumers? To have the store reset on Tuesdays so that everything is in stock by the weekend, or to reset the store in a short time period before the busy weekend shopping? The consumers will decide. If their shopping behavior differs from one area to another then the results will be mixed. The consumers will determine which is best.

Doug Garnett

The challenge with a Wednesday start is that it misses the communication – more people subscribe to the Sunday papers and far more people take time browsing the Sunday circulars. For grocery, we might decide this matters less because they are regular shopping destinations and less driven by sales. But we should be careful about overplaying that idea.

What’s concerning in these discussions is they are primarily about convenience for the store rather than influencing shoppers. Only the second is of primary importance.

Mark Burr
3 years 7 months ago
A good move by Kroger. When I was in the independent world, our ads broke on Wednesday and then shifted to Thursday. Traditionally, they followed the weekly food page weekly feature in the local papers. There were other reasons as well that are already mentioned – the Sunday labor factor, as well as having the same price for the shopper on the ad for both weekend days. We also wanted to be “fresh” for the weekend. I think Kroger has it absolutely right in generating sales into the weekend and over the weekend. An ad that starts on Sunday is essentially dead by the following Saturday, the busiest day of the sales week. Positioning themselves to lead into it is much better not just for Kroger but for the consumer. In addition, if there are special “weekend” hot sales, they are not lost or stale by being in the ad for 4-5 days before beginning. This also benefits the consumer by potentially having less out-of-stocks on ad items as no mater what the directive, stores will run their ad items down into the end of the ad. It that happens on Tuesday, it has far less impact on the consumer… Read more »
gordon arnold

Now this is a great article that is providing the reader with a huge amount of solid information from the author as well as the commentators. Well done, ladies and gentlemen.

W. Frank Dell II

A mid-week drop is superior to a weekend drop. Sunday is too late and only upsets weekend shoppers. In our 24/7 world, the actual day is less of an issue, it is more about consistency. I for one don’t see the value of running with the herd. Assisting comparison shopping is only aiding cherry pickers. Resetting the store on Wednesday or Thursday is less costly by reducing the customer interference. The thing that has changed is the daily share of weekly sales is much less today. We don’t have the big swing between Monday and Saturday or now Sunday. Thursday looks like the best day for the drop.

Jerome Schindler

Maybe Kroger learned that from Harris Teeter. Lucky’s has 8 day ads Wednesday through Wednesday – probably gives a boost to Wednesday as shoppers can get sale prices from both the beginning and the ending circular.

Mike B
Mike B
3 years 7 months ago

With Kroger moving more and more into general merchandise, this is interesting as the standard for general merchandise is to release ads on Sunday, sometimes Friday if trying to capture weekend sales. I am interested to see if this change impacts Fred Meyer or if they will release a grocery ad one day and general merchandise another. Fred Meyer was in the past on the Sunday ad start cycle, typically.

Kate Blake
Kate Blake
3 years 7 months ago

I think it’s a way for the grocers to combat the Targets and Meijers of the world. It would be hard for me to incorporate the info into my shopping pattern because I put all the circulars on the table and plot my plan of attack. A midweek flyer would only get my interest if I was in the store for a quick pick-up.


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