Recently, you went to Publix, and you couldn’t help but wonder why the food is so expensive.
Why is it that Publix seems to be more expensive than the other grocery stores you frequent?
There are a lot of reasons.
Some of it is justified, some of it is illusion, and some of it is just how it has to be.
Why Is Publix So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. High Quality Of Food
Generally, when a grocery store is more expensive, it’s because they have a higher quality of product.
When it comes to Publix, that includes not just food products but also appliances and general household goods.
It’s easiest to see in the produce section, though.
You might be spending more, but you have a wider variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from, and what is available is of generally higher quality.
You are paying more, that’s true, but you’re paying more for something that is generally seen as better.
That’s not true of all products, which is why many conscientious shoppers will actually go to one or two stores for different things.
You might care about the quality of your mangoes, for instance, but not really care about how high in quality your paper napkins are.
Higher quality food, it should be noted, doesn’t always mean healthier.
When it comes to produce, what is considered more expensive and “higher quality” is usually organic, pesticide-free, and non-GMO.
However, there’s some debate as to whether that means it’s healthier for your body.
A significant amount of produce is more expensive because it’s more attractive.
Prettier produce (produce that’s larger, without scarring, and the right color) can look healthier, but it doesn’t taste better.
Before you buy produce and other products, educate yourself on what is actually “better.”
Some of it is legitimate and some of it is just aesthetics, which may not be important when you’re drawing up your budget.
2. Publix Associates Are Paid More
Labor costs are one of the most significant expenses for any grocery store.
Grocery stores are staffed by a lot of people.
Though you mostly only see people on cashier duty, there are people at the deli and the bakery, too.
There are people who are trying to help pick and sort items, people who are organizing the warehouse, and people who are helping customers to their cars with food.
Publix associates are paid more than the associates at many other grocery stores, and this also increases the amount that Publix has to charge.
There are many grocery stores that only pay minimum wage to their associates, especially when they just start.
While this does mean that you’re going to get a deal on your food, it also means that you might not get very good customer service.
People who are paid well do better.
If you’re going somewhere that people aren’t paid well, keep in mind that you might encounter damaged goods, spoiled food, or other issues more frequently.
It’s all a trade-off when it comes to price, convenience, and service.
3. Superior Customer Experience
The reason Publix pays its associates more, apart from trying to create a strong, family-style atmosphere, is to provide better customer service.
Publix associates are more willing to go out of their way to provide excellent customer service because this is something that Publix prioritizes.
This also means that the stores tend to be better organized, that they tend to be cleaner, and that there tend to be more associates per customer in terms of ratio.
Every company, including grocery stores, has specific values and a company culture.
Some grocery stores are based on being expensive, providing high-quality goods, and providing a good customer experience.
Other grocery stores are based on being the cheapest place to get food, and they have nearly no customer experience at all—customers just run in and out.
Sometimes customer experience matters, and sometimes it doesn’t.
If you just want one item and you don’t care about the customer experience, then going somewhere else might make more sense.
On the other hand, for longer shopping trips, and shopping trips where you need the help of knowledgeable associates, it may benefit you to go somewhere like Publix where associates will try to help.
One area customer service often does help is when exchanges have to be done.
It can be a tremendous chore to exchange products in a busier, cheaper grocery store.
4. High-Quality Bakeries And Delis
Many Publix customers swear by the quality of their bakeries and delis.
Not all grocery stores have in-house bakeries and delis.
The ones that do aren’t necessarily going to have good ones.
Publix is known for having high-quality bakery and deli departments, which can matter.
In terms of bakeries, a good grocery store bakery provides high-quality breads and other household baked goods.
They also provide things like birthday cakes, which can be extremely expensive to get from a regular “bakery.”
Again, it’s important to note that cost is relative and that the cost of the service should be compared not just to actual grocery stores, but also independent bakeries.
The deli section also has a wide arrangement of cheeses and meats, which can be great for those who are hosting people, who need snacks, or just love to prepare sandwiches.
Being able to get a wide array of foods that are ready-made can be a benefit in itself because it means that you need to spend less time on your food.
That can also mean more time working or focusing on your family.
Because Publix has high-quality bakeries and delis (which can be a draw in and of themselves), that also means they can sometimes charge more for their services.
Quality doesn’t come cheap.
You can have things good, fast, or cheap, but rarely all three.
Of course, this is just why Publix tends to be more expensive.
It isn’t a reason for doing all your shopping at Publix.
In fact, you can avail yourself of Publix’s deli and its bakery while doing all your other shopping somewhere else entirely, if you want to get the best of both worlds.
It’s just more convenient to do it all in one place.
5. Extra Services For Seniors
Part of Publix’s customer service and brand identity is that it provides extra services for seniors.
Not only do seniors get better deals and discounts, but they can be walked out to their car and have their products picked for them.
This makes it far easier for seniors who have low mobility or who have difficulty with their transportation and timing.
Of course, providing extra services does cost money.
Publix has to remain more highly staffed because they need to be able to send their staff members to help the elderly.
Publix also needs to incrementally raise prices on goods if they’re going to give seniors deep discounts.
For those who are seniors, Publix can be cheaper and more convenient, due to these many advantages.
Those who aren’t seniors may still appreciate that seniors are being cared for and may remain loyal to Publix due to the services that they provide elderly family members.
Publix does emphasize a family-first, community-first approach that is more lacking in some other grocery stores, and this can be something that people are willing to pay a little more for.
That being said, for those who aren’t seniors and for those who don’t have seniors in their families, the additional services could be irrelevant.
Those who just want to balance their monthly budget may want to go to stores that are more likely to cater to singles, college students, and those who have both limited time and money.
6. Comparison To Wal-Mart
When we say “expensive,” what are we actually talking about?
How do we know what a gallon of milk costs or a loaf of bread?
One major reason people think Publix is expensive is that they’re comparing it to cheaper stores.
“Expensive” is a relative statement, and yes, Publix is often expensive compared to Wal-Mart.
It’s more akin to Target. It’s a little more expensive, but it has better goods and better customer service.
If you were comparing Publix to Whole Foods instead of Wal-Mart, you’d be asking, “Why is Publix so cheap?”
Then the question would be a little different and so would the answers.
The truth is that most grocery stores today are expensive compared to Wal-Mart.
Apart from other issues, Wal-Mart has very cheap labor and economies of scale on its side.
It is able to vertically integrate many of its products.
However, it’s also true that Wal-Mart isn’t always the cheapest option.
It can be necessary to determine what is going to be more expensive or less expensive on a granular level.
7. Not Everything Is More Expensive At Publix
Often, there can be the illusion that a space is more expensive than it is.
How does this occur?
Places like Wal-Mart have what they call “loss leaders.”
During things like Black Friday sales, loss leaders are usually giant items that you’ll only realistically buy once, like TVs.
During everyday shopping, loss leaders are products that you’re always going to buy, like milk and bread.
Wal-Mart-type stores will price milk, bread, and other general items much more cheaply, but other convenience items will often cost more.
They know that you probably only want to go to a single place.
If you compare your Publix receipt to an identical receipt at Wal-Mart, you might be surprised to find out that while the milk, bread, and eggs were more expensive at Publix, nearly everything else—like paper towels, hand soap, body wash, etc.—was more expensive at Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart does this intentionally because it knows that most people don’t want to comparison shop or just don’t have the time.
Therefore, this is something to consider if you’re really trying to pare down your grocery bill.
It’s possible you might need to visit multiple stores to get the best deal on each product.
Once you get into the habit, you’ll get a feel for what is cheaper where.
8. Customers At Publix Can Save Through Coupons
Publix has quite a few customer loyalty initiatives.
While the price of something can seem quite high, it’s also true that a lot of people at Publix can save through coupons.
Coupons are usually distributed through Publix in the form of mailers or when people come in, and because of that, you can also plan your next shopping trip based on coupons.
Many people who are budgeting will take a look first at the proteins that are cheap (for instance, stew meat, pork chops, or chicken breast) and then plan their meals around the deals.
Coupons may not mean that everything in the store is cheaper, but it means with some planning, you can still end up with a pretty light receipt.
A lot of people today don’t really pay attention to coupons because they are just trying to plan their meals around what they see in the aisles, or they may already have an idea of what they want.
Taking the time to open a coupon flyer on a weekly basis will tell you how much you can normally save, and it may be time well spent if you can save a lot on your monthly grocery bills.
9. Publix Has A Lot of BOGO Deals
Apart from coupons, the deals that tend to be most invisible are BOGO deals.
BOGO deals are tricky because you buy one and you get one free or at a significant discount.
Effectively, they are the best kind of deals.
They are half off.
However, because you’re probably just thinking about grabbing a single item, you’re not really thinking about the advantage of having two.
With non-perishable or shelf-stable items, such as juice or condiments, it’s almost always better to take advantage of a BOGO.
It means that you’ll be able to keep your pantry stocked and you’ll run out of things less often.
It also means you’ll need to go to the store less often, which is an expense (of both time and money) itself.
Publix’s BOGO deals are often ignored just as bulk pricing is because people know in their minds what quantity they want and are looking at the prices for those quantities.
In general, it’s better to look at a per unit or per ounce price when comparing the cost of different items.
You could find, for instance, that a bottle of ketchup is much cheaper at another store, but that it’s also much smaller at that store.
Larger things are cheaper for stores to manage, but they may come with a heftier per unit price.
10. Publix Is Still Cheaper Than Many “Expensive” Stores
The bottom line with Publix is always going to be that it’s still cheaper than stores like Whole Foods.
Publix is comparable with Target and has high-quality goods that are comparable with a Target grocery store.
Because of this, there are going to be certain things that you just can’t get anywhere but Publix in your neighborhood.
If you want generic household products, it’s possible that you’re going to spend too much at Publix, but if you want things that you would only find in a more “expensive” store, you might want to give Publix a try.
In particular, exotic grains are usually easier to find in Publix than “expensive” stores like Whole Foods.
Even Whole Foods tends to be fairly cheap if you’re looking for discounts and buying in bulk.
Whether something is expensive or cheap depends on the products you’re buying, the quantity, and the quality that you demand.
Expensive stores are usually the organic, health food stores, and a lot of them have some crossover with the goods that are available at Publix.
You’re still probably saving money at Publix if you’re buying a lot of grains, produce, and other healthy food goods.
You will pay a premium at other stores because, at the other stores, you’re also paying for the branding.
Stores like Whole Foods spend a lot of money on advertising so they can claim to be as healthy as possible.
Publix doesn’t spend that money on advertising, so they can provide goods that are as good as expensive stores without the overhead.