Competition grows to win grocery wars - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Competition grows to win grocery wars

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -

Groceries with the click of a mouse? Amazon and Walmart are rivals in the all out grocery war to win over consumers online with the convenience of ordering groceries for pick up or delivery.

Regional chains, like Giant Eagle, are also experimenting with ways to offer a similar service.

Giant Eagle is testing out its new Curbside to Go service at its Doral Drive location in Youngstown.

Shoppers can pick out items online, provide instructions down to the fine details- like whether they like their bananas more green or yellow- and trained workers put the orders together for a quick pick up.

"It's no secret that consumers now a days have more choices than they ever had before," Jannah Jablonowski said, Giant Eagle spokesperson. 

"We really just want to make sure that we are streamlining the service for the customers who are interested in it and making it as convienent as possible."

The Curbside to Go service is free of charge for a customer's first three orders. All orders beyond that point will come with a service fee of $4.95 for any size order.

Giant Eagle is already noticing steady week or week growth with the curbside program. So far orders vary with items from typical grocery lists to strickly paper products and non-food items.

While corporate chains are offering these new services, one local grocer isn't jumping into the competition just yet. Perishable food items including fresh cut meats, deli items and produce are a part of the decision to stick to the current strengths at Rulli Bros. in Boardman.

"People want to touch the produce, they want to know that they're picking out a head of lettuce, that it's the proper head of lettuce," Michael Rulli said.

The Valley grocer is skeptical that online or curbside options would take off with its customer base.

"We're going to try to kick up our game, because we're not fools, we realize that you have to stay very competitive, so we're going to keep our margins extremely close, our quality extremely high and customer service at its best," Rulli said.

Some industry experts say the Amazon-Whole Foods deal will eventually translate into more than just a change in the way consumers shop.

"We're going to see prices across all grocers decline as Amazon really hits the ground with reducing prices at Whole Foods," Phil Lempert said, with Supermarketguru.com.

The potential reach Amazon has with customers is another factor consider. It's possible the online giant could edge out long standing grocery chains with more success than big box stores have attempted to do in the past with it's quick shipping and Prime service. 

In the end, Rulli believes traditional will win out.

"A lot of people don't realize that grocery stores operate on 1.5 percent net and that's just a brutal thing, and actually I think that could be an advantage, because I don't think Amazon, who has never been a grocer, understands that," he said.

Rulli expects shoppers who need something quick won't wait on an order to ship, instead they'll turn to their local grocery store. 

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