Walmart vs. Publix: Battle of the tape totals

This week on RetailWire, panelists discussed an ad campaign in which Publix is fighting back against Walmart’s “Tape Total” spots running throughout the country. Panelists with more expertise about the grocery industry defended the move, based on Publix Stores’ high degree of loyalty in their marketplace. I”m not sure this is a winning argument for them in the long run:

On any given Walmart “shopping list” comparison ad, there are usually some items listed where the competition is actually lower even if Walmart wins on the tape total. It’s hard to verify whether the Publix list was cherry-picked to single out items where they were temporarily cheaper than Walmart because of price promotions — or whether these are legitimate, consistent price comparisons.

The real point is that the Walmart campaign is drawing blood. However, traditional grocers are playing on dangerous territory if they think they can beat Walmart on price over the long haul, or even make price the centerpiece of a marketing campaign. Better to figure out other ways to engender traffic and loyalty, especially in contrast to Walmart’s service standards.

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