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Food Survey Finds Disparities Here, Uniformity There

May 12, 2009 — Competition is helping keep St. Thomas grocery prices similar at the four stores visited on a recent Licensing and Consumer Affairs Department food basket survey, but shoppers on other islands will still find price disparities.
On St. Thomas, the survey showed the price difference between the cheapest store and the third cheapest store was only 57 cents. The best deal for all 37 items on the shopping list was Plaza Extra with a total of $119.72. Pueblo’s Sub Base store came in a close second with a price tag of $119.99, a difference of only 27 cents between the two stores.
Pueblo at Long Bay was third with a total of $120.29.
However, Food Center was out of the running with of $129.23, $9.51 more than the lowest priced food basket found at Plaza Extra.
On St. Croix, Licensing's shoppers did best for the 42 items listed on the survey at Plaza Extra in Christiansted. The total price was $146.44. Plaza Extra’s Frederiksted location came in at a close second with a total of $146.89, a difference of just 45 cents between the two stores. In third place was Pueblo at La Reine with a food basket of $152.26, followed by Pueblo’s Golden Rock store with the highest priced food basket at $158.05.
On St. John Pine Peace Market offered the lowest priced 32-item food basket with a total of $82.62. Dolphin Market came in second with a basket priced at $87.28. Dolphin's tally was 21 cents cheaper than Starfish Market, which placed third with a basket priced at $87.49.
Licensing has pushed the territory's supermarket chains to implement uniform pricing among its supermarkets.
"The issue of price disparity is one that all chain stores must make an effort to correct. Consumers should be able to purchase the same items at all chain stores and not experience a vast difference in price," Acting Commissioner Wayne Biggs said.
According to Biggs, the two St. Thomas Pueblo stores led the way with uniform pricing on that island with only a 30-cent difference between the two stores. Plaza Extra and Food Center have only one store each on St. Thomas.
On St. Croix, Plaza Extra stores were tops in uniform pricing with a difference of 45 cents between the two supermarkets. Pueblo's St. Croix stores were a different matter with a difference of $5.79 between its two supermarkets.
A look at Licensing's data points out some interesting price differences. For example, St. John shoppers will pay a high of 99 cents a pound for bananas at Starfish and Pine Peace, while Dolphin sold them for 95 cents a pound.
But if they buy bananas on shopping treks to St. Thomas, they'll save a bundle. Bananas ran 59 cents a pound at Plaza Extra — nearly 40 percent less than Starfish — and 69 cents a pound at both Pueblo stores. Food Center's banana price was up there with St. John's at 99 cents a pound.
St. Croix shoppers will pay anywhere from 59 cents a pound at Plaza Extra in Christiansted to 78 cents a pound at Plaza Extra in Frederiksted. Bananas at both Pueblo stores ran 69 cents a pound.
Iceberg lettuce prices were all over the map, topping out at $2.49 a head at St. John's Pine Peace Market. Dolphin, at 95 cents a head, had the lowest price on all three islands, while Starfish charged $2.29 a head.
On St. Thomas, iceberg lettuce hit a high of $2.29 at Food Center, with both Pueblo stores second at $1.89 a head. Plaza Extra was cheapest at $1.49 a head.
St. Croix's iceberg lettuce prices ranged from 99 cents a head at Pueblo's Frederiksted store to $1.89 at Pueblo's Christiansted store. Plaza Extra charged $1.29 a head at its Frederiksted store and $1.59 at its Christiansted store.
A loaf of Holsum white bread ran $3.09 at every store on all three islands. This was the only item in the survey that had the same price no matter where people shopped.
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