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CNN reports that "Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the United States, is ditching its long-running weekly newspaper ad circulars announcing the latest grocery specials.

"The ads for Kroger stores and subsidiaries, including Ralphs, Fred Meyer and King Soopers, will shift online. Printed copies will be available in stores, the company said.

"The company said on Twitter that it was ending its print ads because of declining newspaper circulation and many newspapers eliminating their print editions."

The CNN story goes on:

"As more coupons move online, older and low-income shoppers get left out

"The move could deal a blow to shoppers who plan their store trips based on weekly newspaper ads. It also comes amid a jump in grocery prices.

"A Stanford University study in 2006 found that at least 10% of shoppers chose their store based on the week’s ads, and that shoppers were most influenced when the ads promoted discounts on cereal, chips, pizza, cookies and hot dogs."

KC's View:

A lot of grocers ended the weekly print circular during the pandemic, when the idea of touching paper that other people touched seemed unwise, even unimaginable.   But then, as those concerns lessened, some returned to the print circulars, even though they were seeing declining impact and cost a lot of money.  This astounded me - they'd already made the hard move, and then went back to a status quo that made little sense.

Let's be clear.  Kroger may see some decline in sales because of this move.  But if it markets the move right, it can argue that it actually can provide a more targeted, customized and effective experience for shoppers.  It may require some education, but it will be worth it.  Don't fear the downside, my friends.  Rather, embrace the upside.

I spoke to a friend of mine who knows a lot about this stuff, and he suggested that "Kroger sees digital engagement as a competitive advantage, and they know that once they get a customer digitally engaged, the cost to communicate with and serve the customer goes down dramatically and their ability to leverage their data goes up."  And, if Kroger is smart - and it is - it will "invest some of the savings from reducing print ad distribution into creating additional incentives for customers to engage digitally."

Expect this to be a harbinger of things to come.  "Once grocery retailers see Kroger’s move as a strategic move to get ahead of competition," my friend told me, "the enthusiasm for expanding digital engagement will grow rapidly.  On the surface, this looks like a move to cut costs, but I think it is designed to shift the battle to digital, where Kroger can dominate."