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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

Whole Foods' price cuts drew customers from Trader Joe's, Target

It's been six weeks now since Amazon grabbed the public's attention by announcing eye-popping price reductions at the grocery chain it bought whose notoriety for high prices garnered it the nickname "whole paycheck."

Now various data analyses and reports are coming in, looking at which retail competitors turned out to be the biggest losers as a result of the price changes at Whole Foods while also raising questions about just how deep and sustained those price cuts really were. 

One thing seems clear. The price cuts brought a lot more curious customers to Whole Foods when they first took hold in the last week of August. According to an analysis of mobile phone location data by Thasos Group, foot traffic to Whole Foods spiked 17 percent that week, but it seems to have been fairly short-lived. Traffic tapered off in subsequent weeks to about 4 percent higher than the same time last year.

The largest percentage of new customers, the firm found, came from people who regularly shop Walmart (24 percent), followed by Kroger (16 percent) and Costco (15 percent).

What about Target? Many expected the Minneapolis-based retailer to be one of the most vulnerable to the Amazon-Whole Foods merger. But it didn't see as big of an impact, at least not initially because of the price cuts, as some analysts had thought.

While it didn't land in the top 3 of the list above, Target did make another list when the researchers analyzed the data another way, accounting for the relative size of the customer base of the retailers to figure out which retailers felt the biggest sting.

Taking that into account, Thasos calculated that about 3 percent of Target's customer base defected to Whole Foods.

But those who suffered the most, according to the analysis, was Trader Joe's, which saw 10 percent of its customers heading to Whole Foods, and Sprouts Farmers Market, where the defection rate was 8 percent.

That's not surprising given research from consulting firm Magid whose data shows that 45 percent of Trader Joe's shoppers already also shopped at Whole Foods, compared to 23 percent for Target,19 percent for Costco, 9 percent for Walmart and 8 percent for Kroger.

So here's another lingering question: How deep were the price cuts at Whole Foods and how far across the board did they go?

Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom attempted to answer just that by analyzing a basket of 110 items at a Whole Foods in New Jersey over the last several weeks to gauge the depth and change in prices before and after the acquisition.

He found that the average prices on that basket of items actually went up 1.1 percent.

While acknowledging that prices of some items saw significant drops, such as items in the bakery, he said prices crept up on other items, notably frozen food items.

So the net effect of the cuts, he concluded, was basically negligible.

Carpet/flooring wholesaler offers hard to beat prices

If you're considering hardwood flooring, carpet, vinyl, or tile, here's advance notice of a sale from one of the Twin Cities' largest wholesale showrooms.

Check out ProSource, a national wholesaler that's for builders, remodelers, contractors, architects, interior designers, real estate professionals, rehabbers and installers, but can shopped by anyone with a connection. (And we've got one.for you.) It's having its semi-annual Octoberfest sale Oct. 23-27 with extra discounts from manufacturers. Shoppers can start looking now and make the discounted purchase when the sale starts in three weeks.

During the sale, select brands get additional discounts of 10-25% off plus everything gets an additional 3% off. Although the discounts may seem on the modest side, ProSource's regular prices are often among the lowest. Unfortunately, it's difficult to compare carpet prices since big box retailers use private labels, but shoppers can always ask for a free sample of the flooring they want and then shop it around.  

Regardless of what type of flooring, tell the salesperson where it will be used, the amount of traffic the room gets, and the number of adults, kids and pets in the household. What works fine in a rarely used basement may quickly be worn down in an entryway. 

ProSource is a members-only showroom with selection that ranges from budget to luxury. To gain entrance, call the Jack Rubenstein Wholesale Co. at 952-922-4781 or email Jen at sales@jlrwholesale.com. Save $50 on your order if you go to Rubenstein's website and fill out the form for a showroom consultation. ProSource locations in other states are also having sales in October, although dates may vary. 

ProSource Minnesota is located in Plymouth, Bloomington and Oakdale. Store hours are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Shop on Saturday Oct. 21 and Oct. 29 by appointment only. 

Register during the sale for giveways including a Fat Tire bike, a Yeti cooler. and a patio heater.