The name has changed, but the employee’s are still the same at Cash Saver, the grocery store at the intersection of New Sugar Creek Road and Hwy 30. Originally built in 1980 as a National, the store had briefly been a Schnucks, then a “new” National and most recently, Food for Less.
Dave O’Neal, a veteran of the grocery store business, ran the store from 1999 to 2011. He retired briefly, but came back to head up the store with its new concept. The store is still independently owned and not part of a chain. The Cash Saver name comes from a model presented by Associated Wholesale Grocers, the co-op food distributor that supplies over 19,000 independent grocers around the country.
Cash Saver has a different way of doing business, one that O’Neal says can really save shoppers money. Everything in the store is priced at cost—the exact price it took for a can of peas or bag of chips to reach the store shelves. Then 10 percent is added at the checkout to cover the store’s overhead.
The store doesn’t waste money on decorations and has a slim advertising budget. Its clean, neat and well stocked, but lacks the artfully arranged displays of fruit or cute chalk board signs you might find at other stores.
O’Neal said they marked down prices 20 to 30 percent when they reset the store. Food for Less was shut down for a week after Thanksgiving and reopened as Cash Saver December 1.
O’Neal pointed out a bag of brand name chips labeled with a suggested retail price of $3.49. The Cash Saver price is $2.10, plus 10 percent added at check out.
“That’s the cost to get it on the shelf,” he said. “It’s as low as you can buy it.”
The most noticeable change for loyal customers was the removal of the deli.
O’Neal said they had to close the deli because it was too expensive with their new rock bottom prices. The deli is still back there, hidden behind a wall of cans and they now prepackaged lunch meat and put it in a self-serve cooler. They still have a quality meat aisle, which O’Neal bragged is 20 percent cheaper than Shop N Save.
He dismissed the low prices of Walmart’s meat department.
“Walmart adds solution to their meat. You’re paying for water,” he said.
Though they do less customer service than before, O’Neal said the store only lost two positions and actually hired ten more people--mostly checkout staff. Many of the staff have worked at the store for years. He said they may need to hire more people as the word gets out about Cash Saver and it builds a following.
Unlike other discount grocery stores, Cash Savers has a mix of national brands and familiar private labels, like Best Choice.
O’Neal said the big chains may still occasionally beat them on individual sale prices because they can afford to lure shoppers with loss leaders—items sold below cost. The big chains make up the difference by charging more for other products.
His customers will still save more money on average.
“Your whole basket is going to cost less,” he said. “We don’t play games with prices.”