One thing that I think everyone who lives in Boulder City can agree on – it’s the wish for another grocery store beyond our local Albertsons. Since 2010 when I moved here, we’ve gone from three choices down to one. That’s a bummer for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here.
But one common theme that I’ve come across on our Facebook page and others, has been the notion that because we have only the one Albertsons grocery store, that our local prices are then inflated beyond other stores. We also hear people talk of shopping ‘over the hill’ when they can in an attempt to improve variety as well as pay lower prices.
Personally, I’ve worked for a number of large retail companies, so I have some idea how they work. So I’ve just completed a series of independent “secret shopper” price comparisons to verify two things:
- Is the Boulder City Albertsons charging us higher prices because they are the only grocer in town?
- Does Albertsons have higher prices than comparable stores?
We’re going to walk you through in great detail what we found.
Prices in Boulder City Albertsons vs. Other Albertsons
We physically checked 7 different Albertsons and Vons locations in different communities and demographics in our area, ranging all the way from Summerlin, East and North Las Vegas, Central Las Vegas and Henderson. In all cases we shopped with the exact same list and checked all regular and sale prices. Yes, it was a long, long day of walking the stores, but legwork was the only way to do it.
The prices that we pay at our local Boulder City Albertsons ARE THE EXACT SAME PRICES as every other Albertsons or Vons location in the greater Las Vegas area. (Pricing in grocers is typically set by region or district. Some variables for perishables to be expected)
A Comparable Store Comparison – Smith’s
a) Why Smith’s? Smith’s is part of the Ralph’s/Kroger family of chain grocers, which is the other part of the original ‘big 3’ grocer retailers around. The stores all function with employee unions, which is a substantial difference. You simply can’t compare Albertsons/Vons to a discounter (such as Walmart, WinCo or Costco) or to a boutique grocer (such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Sprouts). So Smith’s becomes the only fair ‘apples to apples’ comparison.
b) For the price comparison we used nearly the identical list our predecessor Kathy created for her Hagan/Albertsons price article back in 2015. (There were a few changes due to availability at both stores.) We thought this way you would also be able to see some consistency in the products that we checked pricing on.
c) It’s a good list because it covers national brands and standard sizes, and includes a wide variety of items that families regularly purchase and use. Produce and meats are left off, because of the challenges with consistency and local supply to create a valid comparison.
d) Also, I left off bulk or ‘multi-item’ discounts (as had been done before) that you only earn the lower prices by buying more. (ie: get 3 for $9 instead of the regular or sale price). However I did leave notes for you between the two retailers so you can see them.
e) We did THREE shopping trips for both stores – the local Albertsons and one of two Smith’s locations. (And yes, we verified that Smith’s stores are all also priced the same between locations.) Dates shopped: April 22, May 26 and June 16.
Smith’s IS LESS EXPENSIVE, although not by much – it seems to depend on the week and the specials in both stores. Below are sale prices as a summary for each date, plus a link to download my list in detail:
April 22nd – Albertsons Total $166.88, Smith’s Total $151.09 Download HERE
May 26th – Albertsons Total $157.82, Smith’s Total $151.91 Download HERE
June 16th – Albertsons Total $167.38, Smith’s Total $151.79 Download HERE
So as an average, Smith’s does come out about 10% less expensive.
A Few Other Observations
What it really comes down to is lifestyle, and what works for you. If you work or are regularly outside of Boulder City, and it’s convenient for you to stop and shop those grocers – then that’s a great option. However for those who live and work right here in town, then you’ll have to judge for yourself if the extra time traveling and gas is worth the trip.
Another observation is that Albertsons prices definitely vary more than Smith’s. I actually had to double check my notes and math because Smith’s was so similar. If you’re an ad shopper and you can find advertised sales on items you use a lot at Albertsons, you can really save some money on their bulk buys.
We also noticed that Albertsons seems to have more options for organic products, not just produce but dry and canned goods as well. Again, this could be regional or based upon other market factors in the stores we checked, but that does appear to be a difference in focus from the two different grocer companies.
The final point I’ll make is that this local Boulder City Albertsons continuously do their part and work with our local non-profits to support our community. Please remember that the store is staffed with local folks who are our friends and neighbors and that they personally cannot affect the prices the corporation sets. We hope this analysis has been helpful for us all, and thanks for following us!