For many years, supermarkets have added cafes and olive bars to attract a wealthy clientele to their groceries, but grocery stores have eliminated certain markets with this plan. Those who are eligible for food stamps cannot use these benefits to purchase anything in Starbucks or McDonald’s for that matter. However, stores are making it more convenient for food stamp shoppers to buy products at their locations and accommodating needy families.
Stores have been moving their opening hours, adding products and redoing merchandise assortments to meet the requirements of food stamp benefits, which state that items have to be within the restrictions for eligibility. As persistent joblessness has created even more dependency on food stamp programs, grocery stores have seen the changes and supported the community by providing easier access to these eligible items. Distributions actually have risen 11 percent since the unemployment rate skyrocketd. It is now estimated that $71.8 billion in fiscal 2011 goes towards the SNAP food stamp program according to the USDA.
Supervalu Inc’s Save-A-Lot chain has long been the main grocery store for low-income families. Its products are lower priced and mainly stick to the required food items, not offering things such as alcohol or cigarettes in their establishments. Save-A-Lot also opens some supermarkets at midnight, when government benefits are loaded into food stamp cards. The chain switches to smaller sizes later as money dwindles and customers make fill-in purchases with benefits. The policies have allowed supermarkets to give special attention to these shoppers.
“What we’re learning how to do is to merchandise for those events,” Chief Executive Officer Craig Herkert said. “You have to learn, market by market, when is that, and you have to merchandise to it, and in some cases, run your stores by it.”
If the current jobless population soars any higher, and the food prices climb any faster, large grocers and supercenters are going to be hurt. According to Bloomberg, 85 percent or $54.8 billion of all food stamps were spent there in 2010, a number coming from USDA. Food stamps also account for almost 40 percent of the sales at Save-A-Lot, which is actually up from 26 percent just two years ago. Herkert stated that the number of people using food stamps is “shocking.”