All the snobbery, half the price!

Grocery store chain Food Lion has announced a plan to remodel its traditional stores to appeal to either high-end or bargain-basement customers. Some of the 1,200 stores in the N.C.-based chain will become Bottom Dollar outlets, where low prices are king and customers will have to get used to bagging their own Jell-O and economy-sized peanut butter vats. Other former Food Lions will become Bloom stores, aimed at upscale shoppers who’ll throw down an extra 20 cents a pound for lentils du Puy or Meyer lemons.

Since there’s nothing sexy about the low-price outlets (just ask my mama, loyal Pak ‘n’ Save shopper), Food Lion is mainly talking up the Bloom brand. They’ll have hulking counters of ready-made food for the grabbing-dinner-on-the-way-from-work set, space set aside for organic produce, sushi, etc. Sounds kind of like Whole Foods, but since Food Lion reps are promising a “gourmet lifestyle” at lower prices, maybe you won’t need to sell off a body part to shop for the week’s nosh.

Maybe this is what Food Lion needs to burnish its reputation. The chain never really recovered from ABC’s 1992 Prime Time Live news report that FL food handlers sold spoiled meat washed in bleach to hide the stink. Food blogosphere reaction has been muted, just a couple of “can’t wait to see it!” posts on those with local Blooms-to-be. But some shoppers are concerned about the socio-economic signals Food Lion’s move sends.

Blogger Riley of neo-con blog Virginia Virtucon is incensed that the store nearest his tony neighborhood is being converted into a Bottom Dollar. Urging his neighbors to join him in a letter-writing campaign to demand a local Bloom instead, Riley snipes “Why doesn’t Food Lion just cut to the chase and rename these stores ‘Soup Kitchen?’” The anonymous blogger behind news aggregator blog Discount Airline Prices sniffs that a Bloom store would be more welcome in a certain fancy-schmancy Maryland neighborhood than a Food Lion, known for “limited selection and low costs.” But it’s uber-dude blogger Blarggrymfrost with the man-on-the-street view –- he says that he’s getting a raise as his employer switches from a Food Lion to a Bloom, “which is gay but Ill [SIC] be gay for 52K a year.”

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