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Good news in groceries


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Predicting how a new retail business will affect Baker County’s economy is an inexact science, to be sure, but we think the construction of a Grocery Outlet supermarket, slated for next year just east of Interstate 84, is likely to benefit local shoppers.

At the most basic level, Grocery Outlet will give customers a third option in addition to the Safeway and Albertsons stores on East Campbell Street.

Grocery Outlet, which is based in Berkeley, California, and has more than 280 independently operated stores in Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Washington and Pennsylvania. The company’s Oregon store locations include La Grande, Ontario and Pendleton.

Grocery Outlet stores have lower prices, on average, than larger chains, and the opening of a store in Baker City should be a boon to shoppers seeking to cut their grocery bills, said David J. Livingston, a grocery consultant in Wisconsin.

Many Baker County residents have expressed concerns about pricing at the Safeway and Albertsons stores — especially after the two chains merged under a single corporation in 2015.

Livingston said he doesn’t expect the opening of a Grocery Outlet store will have a significant effect on prices at the Safeway and Albertsons stores, although he notes that increasing competition, even in a small rural economy such as Baker County’s, could benefit customers of all grocery stores.

It’s possible, too, that the new store could siphon away enough business from the Safeway and Albertsons stores that one of those two might close, said Tom Gillpatrick, a professor of marketing at Portland State University who is the first recipient of the university’s Juan Young Professor in Marketing and Food Management position.

Conversely, Grocery Outlet could have a beneficial ripple effect on other local, non-grocery businesses. Several residents have told us they frequently buy groceries at discount markets in other counties, and it’s likely that some of those shoppers patronize other businesses in those counties during their grocery-buying trips.

If some of those customers start shopping instead at Grocery Outlet, other local merchants might see an uptick in business.

From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of publisher Kari Borgen, editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.