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The Wall Street Journal reports on new bagging procedures being adopted and aggressively promoted throughout Supervalu’s various banners, “part of a training program that Supervalu Inc. believes will save it millions of dollars a year by putting more items in each bag or skipping the bag altogether. Plastic bags cost about two cents apiece and paper bags cost five. The Eden Prairie, Minn., operator of Albertsons, Acme Markets and Jewel-Osco stores uses more than 1.5 billion plastic and paper bags a year at about 1,100 stores, not counting its Save-A-Lot discount stores, where customers bring or pay for their own bags.”

According to the story, “Some of the Supervalu guidelines reinforce familiar bagging rules, such as starting the packing at the corners and moving from the outside in. But others break with common practices: No double-bagging. No bags for large items or items with handles, like one gallon orange-juice containers. Never ask, ‘Paper or plastic?; just use plastic bags. The rules can be broken, but only on request.”

The Journal notes that Supervalu’s banners have “struggled amid the recession as many customers migrated to rivals for discounts. But it's hoping to reverse 11 consecutive quarters of sales declines at stores open at least a year by plowing bagging and other savings into lower prices for bread, frozen shrimp and other items.”
KC's View:
I have mixed emotions on this one.

On the one hand, I happen to believe that the little things make a difference, and that pennies saved on bagging here and there can add to up to big savings that can have an impact on the bottom line. And so on that level, Supervalu’s approach makes sense.

But there is a tone to the story - and this may be the way the Journal wrote it, and not the way Supervalu is enacting it - that suggests that Supervalu believes that what it wants and needs is more important than what its customers want and need.

The only thing that, in the long run, will help Supervalu turn around sales declines is offering a better store experience, which means different things with different formats and in different locations. And that means making the customer’s priorities their own.