Haggen is finding a first impression is hard to change.
When the Bellingham, Washington grocery chain went from 18 supermarkets to more than 160, it was accused of upping its prices. Company officials admitted there was a pricing problem at the beginning, but from my experience interviewing shoppers, people are slow to forget.
So now that Haggen has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is closing stores, it might be a good time to check prices. Are they still high?
I randomly selected 30 items at a Haggen store in Clairemont, mostly staples like bread, milk, flour and cereal. I also included items like dog food, produce, juice and cookies. After taking down the prices, I check the exact same items at a Vons supermarket just a block away. Vons is owned by Safeway, and Albertsons and Safeway recently merged, which is why so many market locations were available for Haggen buy.
Haggen and Albertsons each have a lawsuit pending against the other.
When comparing prices and totaling up the groceries, the Haggen basket came to $107.87. The Vons basket came to $112.97. That's a difference of $5.10.
Haggen was not cheaper on all items. It was cheaper on Cheerios Honey Nut cereal by 50¢, cheaper on whole milk by 30¢ and cheaper on Fig Newtons by $1. Many items were the same price, like a dozen Cage Free Eggs and Quaker Oats.
But when you compare Haggen prices with Vons Club Card prices, it tells a different story. The Club prices totalled $101.95. That would make Vons cheaper than Haggen by $5.92. For instance Simply Orange was $4.99 at Haggen, but the club price at Vons was $4.79. It was a bigger difference in ice cream; Dryer's Grand Ice Cream sold for $6.29 at Haggen but only $3.49 at Vons.
In response to my price check, Carlos Illingworth with Vons said this by email:
"We are focused on overall value, which combines superior quality and selection at competitive prices. Because our typical Southern California store has more than 40,000 products for sale, it is difficult to do a definitive or meaningful price comparison with a very small number of items."