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
(KR) 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.
“Kroger is joining many retailers in shifting the way our weekly ads are distributed,” a spokesperson told CNN.
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.
“This becomes inconvenient for shoppers who, up until now, could do easy comparison shopping just by flipping the pages of competing stores’ circulars at their kitchen table,” said Edgar Dworsky, a consumer advocate and founder of Consumer World. “It also leaves behind those folks without internet access or smartphones.”
According to Pew Research Center, 39% of people 65 and over do not own a smartphone, and 25% don’t use the internet. Additionally, 24% of adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year don’t own a smartphone, while 41% don’t have a computer.
This means that millions of older and low-income shoppers — the people who often depend on promotions the most to stretch their dollars — will be shut out of online deals.
The move also hurts newspapers that rely on advertisements for dwindling revenue.
“The loss of the Kroger circulars is a loss for both the paper and our readers,” said the publisher of The Mississippi Dispatch in Columbus, Mississippi.
Kroger is the latest company to discontinue its weekly circular ads.
Some companies, such as Walgreens
(WBA), stopped printing coupon catalogs and moved their weekly advertisements online. CVS
(CVS) stopped printing them for newspapers but some are still in stores. Manufacturers such as General Mills
(GIS) have also ended printed circulars.
In 2020, redemptions of digital coupons in the United States surpassed redemptions of the most common type of paper coupons for the first time, according to market research firm Inmar Intelligence.
For stores, personalized digital coupons delivered to customers through their apps represent a more surgical option to reach customers than mass distribution through the newspaper.
Companies also get more data on customers when they download an app and can better track whether customers are responding to the coupons.
“The cost of printing and distribution has just gotten too high apparently, and stores want to accustom shoppers to using their online digital resources,” Dworsky said.