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UPDATE: Farm Fresh changes weekly ad, shoppers chatter

Media IndustryAdvertisingHampton RoadsHarris Teeter, Inc.

People, especially serious shoppers, do not like change.

That's the message a vocal group of Hampton Roads shoppers have been sending to Farm Fresh after the grocery chain changed its weekly advertisement.

In April, Farm Fresh switched to a smaller weekly advertising format, using larger pictures and showcasing fewer specific deals. Shoppers, particularly couponers and frugal bloggers, have loudly protested.

The Farm Fresh Facebook page has been flooded with shopper's comments asking for the old advertisement style to return.

“I was hoping for a longer ad this week as well,” Debra Carl writes on the Farm Fresh Facebook page. “While I appreciate Farm Fresh's generosity with coupon doubling and the kindness of its associates, I have to say I haven't walked in your store for three weeks. I used to go twice a week. The shorter ad makes it impossible for me to plan my trip with three kids in tow, and as such, I have been doing my shopping elsewhere. I would love to come back and hope to see the longer ad return!”

The change was made in response feedback Farm Fresh has already received from its customers, says Jeff Swanson, director of corporate communications for SuperValu, Farm Fresh's parent company.

“The team has heard directly from customers over the last several years, including that we sometimes made the ad confusing or difficult or required too many 'Must Buy' or 'Must Spend' components,” he says. “In addition, sometimes Farm Fresh was required to feature products as part of a larger purchase decision made by SuperValu. This has changed and now (Farm Fresh president Bill Parker) and team can feature what is important to our local customers, when it is important to them.”

Minneapolis-based SuperValu, which operates more than 3,400 grocery stores across the country, including Farm Fresh stores and some chains more commonly found in Mid-Western states, has undergone some major corporate shifts in the past two years, including the installation of a new CEO and the sale of five of its supermarket chains.

Most recent reports on SuperValu’s stock say that shares have tripled in value since the beginning of the year.

Locally, Swanson emphasizes a new power given to Farm Fresh president Bill Parker to respond to region-specific needs.

He adds that Parker has spent time in local stores talking with customers, including heavy couponers who are the most vocal about the change.

Laura Oliver, for example, wrote an open letter to Farm Fresh on her website afrugalchick.com asking Farm Fresh to reverse its decision.

“Now on Tuesdays I can’t get enough information to make my menu and since I have the luxury of being close to additional grocery stores I now go first to Harris Teeter,” she writes.

Swanson says that once shoppers who are concerned about the new ad visit the store, the reaction has been mostly positive.

“In fact, customer count is up since the change in ad,” he says. “We are also working on additional ideas and offerings for our customers that will build off our new ad and continue providing more ways to save when shopping at our stores.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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