Shopping with sense

Friendly neighborhood shoppers remain loyal to local markets through downed economy

By Susie Bartel

EUGENE- It was a gloomy Oregon day as the rain fell and drizzled down the windows at Friendly Street Market. The front door slid open intermittently and with it brought a rush of cold March air. Randi Dalotto found a quiet and dry spot in the market café to eat her lunch. That day was just one of the many visits she makes to her local market in any given week.

In 2009, the Food Market Institute (FMI) published a new release regarding grocery shoppers, “FMI Grocery Shopper Trends 2009: Recession Changing Consumers Shopping Behaviors at the Supermarket.”

In the news release, FMI President Leslie G. Sarasin said, “Shoppers in every income bracket are facing budgetary pressures, and they are making different choices when it comes to the foods they purchase…Retailers are challenged with a great opportunity to win over shoppers with money saving ideas that appeal to their customers.”

Friendly neighborhood of Eugene, Oregon is situated between the bustling streets of Willamette and Chambers. The neighborhood has many different amenities to offer, including some local markets, such as Capella Market, Sunrise Asian Food Market, and Friendly Street Market.

As the economy continues to be in a difficult state, the local market shoppers could have to compromise shopping at their favorite market or find ways to save some money but still enjoy the comforts of their local market.

Dalotto is a loyal customer to the Friendly Street Market. She visits the small store on average about 5 or 6 times a week. While she does have the option of visiting larger supermarkets nearby, such as Market of Choice, she prefers the amenities and setting of Friendly Street Market.

“I enjoy easy access to the store, and I don’t have to deal with traffic and a lot of people,” said Dalotto. The welcoming atmosphere of the local market was commonly mentioned as being one of its main draws.

Barbra Sklar was checking the quality of some apples when a young boy approached her and lightly tapped her on the arm. She turned around, and with excitement in her voice she told the young boy she would find his mother after she finished picking out her produce. As she turned around back to the apples, Sklar said, “It is the sweetest thing running into the people you know.” She also said that the local market is a nice place to meet new people.

A common draw for many shoppers to smaller, local markets is the availability of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Erla King, a regular shopper at Capella Market, said she enjoys buying local fruits and vegetables and fresh foods because it is beneficial to the community and her health.

Despite the economic downturn, grocery shoppers aren’t willing to give up on the things they enjoy about their local market in order to save a few dollars.

Sklar said, “I am more conscious of prices, but it is one of those things that you have to spend money on.” In order to lower her grocery bill she steers towards the bulk section and buys fruits and vegetable depending on the season. Dalotto also agreed with sticking to what is in season as a way to save some money.

“I stopped looking at prices a long time ago,” said Dalotto, “I used to constantly compare prices.”  She has considered shopping at larger chain stores in order to save some money. “I don’t think I would, but you never know,” she said.

King does compare prices, but doesn’t let it get out of hand and take up too much of her time. She doesn’t compare prices between stores. Instead, she looks at prices between products at the same store, such as bulk and packaged foods.

King and Sklar limit their expenses by not purchasing the highest end products. “I definitely won’t spend money on larger, expensive items,” said Sklar.

If money became an issue for her, King would only stop shopping at the local markets if it was for something extreme. She said, “If I became destitute I probably would, but for now I just don’t buy the most expensive things.”

Mario Ducci, a cook at the café in Friendly Street Market, has noticed the impact of the economy and feels it has made customers more price conscious. He said that there have been the same number of customers as in the past, but the visits during the month are “spread in a different way.” Ducci said that there is a larger surge of customers during the beginning of the month, around payday, rather than near the end when people’s expenses are tighter.

In terms of the market itself, Ducci said that the final numbers at the end of the year are about the same. The difference that the economy has made at Friendly Street Market is apparent in their sales on a monthly basis. Ducci said that the high and low of their sales are farther apart than previous years, but at the end it evens out to numbers in years past.

Long’s Meat Market is located off of Willamette St. in The Southtowne Shoppes district. That market has been in Eugene since 1927. Throughout the years the market has faced several economic downturns, including the Great Depression. However, the market has continued to grow. The owner of Long’s Meat Market, Scott Wooley, has been involved with the business since his father took over the company.

Wooley said, “For the last 15 years we have shown growth each year in sales, by last year we held even with previous years.” In comparison to the economic downturn in the 80’s, Wooley said the current economic situation hasn’t hit the meat industry as hard. The economy was harder to deal with in the 80’s “due to the cutting back by consumers due to cholesterol becoming the big health concern of that decade,” he said.

In an article published by The New York Times in August 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture said food prices at “grocery stores, convenience stores, and farmers’ markets will rise 2 to 3 percent this year.” According to the department, this can be compared to the 6.4 percent increase from 2008.

Wooley said, “There has been no significant increase in product cost even though the cost of grain has increased, and we are selling a lot of local grass fed products.”

Wooley tries to help customers deal with the tough economic times by offering periodic specials that “seem to be of consumer interest” and gives him an extra sell. Long’s offers many different types and cuts of meat resulting in varying prices. In regards to saving money, Wooley said, “They [customers] don’t seem to be buying more economical cuts as a premeditated choice.”

There are certain things many of the local shoppers don’t want to give up in order to save money. Whether it is the location, people, or atmosphere, local shoppers remain loyal to their markets.

As Dalotto scrapes the last bit of food off of her plate, she said, “It might be a cliché, but it is very friendly.”

Sidebar 1:

5 Money Saving Tips

– Don’t shop on an empty stomach

Everything seems more appealing when you are hungry. People tend to buy more and unnecessary products when their stomach is doing the decision making. So, before heading out on your next grocery trip make sure your hunger is suppressed.

– Try Store Brands

Most people usually veer away from store brand products because they are associated with being bland and not as satisfying. Even if you aren’t ready to give up on the products you are familiar with, there are some products that can be switched without noticing a difference. Flour, sugar, and other staple items don’t require you to compromise on flavor, but they save money at the same time.

– Shop on Sundays

Sundays are one of the best days to shop because of the new coupons that come out in the Sunday newspaper. They can help maximize your savings.

– Buy only what you need

Before going to the grocery store, make a list of the items that you need, and make sure you stick to the list when at the store. The bill can start to add up quickly when unnecessary products are put in the cart.

– Watch the scanner

The tabloid magazines might be tempting, but it is more worthwhile to keep your eyes on the scanner. Sometimes items ring up with the wrong price. It would be better to catch those than let them slide by.

Sidebar 2:

Battle of the Brands

Which brand is a better bargain? The name brand or the unfamiliar?

1) Flour

a) Unbleached White Flour in bulk

b) Gold Medal unbleached white flour

2) Canned beans

a) 15 oz Field Day Pinto Beans

b) 16 oz Bush’s Pinto Beans

3) Box of Macaroni and Cheese

a) Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (7.25 oz box)

b) Annie’s Homegrown Macaroni and Cheese (6 oz box)

4) Cereal

a) General Mill’s Cheerios (8.9 oz box)

b) Barbara’s Bakery Honey Nut O’s (10 oz box)

5) Cookies

a) Newman-O’s Creme Filled Chocolate Cookies (16 oz box)

b) Nabisco’s Oreo (18 oz box)

Answers*: 1) b 2) b 3) a 4) a 5) b

  • Answers based on prices at Friendly Street Market and Market of Choice

About Susie Bartel

I am a Senior at the University of Oregon majoring in journalism (magazine) and minoring in multimedia.
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