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Market Basket offers yearlong discount

Market Basket says its new discount program is, in part, a way to reward loyal customers. Above, the store in Salem.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Market Basket says its new discount program is, in part, a way to reward loyal customers. Above, the store in Salem.

Shoppers at Market Basket supermarkets will notice something different about the totals on their grocery receipts: They’re lower.

The Tewksbury-based chain, owned by the Demoulas family, will offer a discount of 4 percent on customers’ entire orders — including sale items — through Dec. 27.

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The discount does not apply to alcoholic beverages, milk, postage stamps, gift cards, cigarettes, lottery tickets, or trash bags mandated by a municipality.

The nearly yearlong promotion was announced in the chain’s fliers and full-page advertisements in newspapers this week. In a press release, the company said the discount is part of strategy to attract more customers, increase sales, and enhance the Market Basket brand.

A family of four keeping to a low household budget spends about $190 per week on groceries, according to the Department of Agriculture. At that rate, the discount would result in savings of close to $400 over a year, the equivalent of about two weeks of groceries.

The 4 percent discount is one of the first major promotions of the year by Boston-area chains, forecasting intensifying competition that could be good for consumers, analysts said. Mike Berger, senior editor of the Griffin Report of Food Marketing, an industry publication in Duxbury, said he expects other supermarkets to follow with their own promotions in the fight for customers.

“This is a very aggressive supermarket environment and will become even more so during this year,” he said. Market Basket is “just getting ahead of everybody.”

Competition is particularly fierce in Greater Boston, where household income is among the highest in the nation.

Wegmans, a Rochester, N.Y., chain, opened its first Massachusetts stores in 2011, and shoppers are awaiting two more, in Chestnut Hill and the Fenway.

After years of losing market share, Shaw’s and Star Market got new owners who are spending millions to remodel stores and are trying to land new locations in urban areas.

Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas, has opened a few new stores in spaces previously occupied by the defunct Johnnie’s Foodmaster chain.

Then there’s Stop & Shop, Hannaford, Roche Bros., Big Y, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Trader Joe’s, PriceRite, and dozens of smaller companies, such as Foodies Urban Market and Tropical Foods.

Nontraditional players, such as Target and Walmart, are also crowding the market.

As a result, retailers are trying almost anything to pull in customers, from dropping loyalty cards and prices to offering online grocery shopping and in-store pick-up.

Market Basket, which has more than 70 locations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, is known for having dedicated customers who line up for the opening of new stores and go out of their way to shop at their favorite store. In its fliers, the supermarket chain described the 4 percent discount as way to reward loyal customers.

That would include Jen Colby, 36, a stay-at-home mother in Shirley who does most of her shopping at Market Basket, even though other supermarkets are closer to her home.

Mark Feole stocked the juice aisle at the Market Basket in Chelsea. The chain has more than 70 stores.

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Mark Feole stocked the juice aisle at the Market Basket in Chelsea. The chain has more than 70 stores.

“It’s kind of cool,” she said of the discount. “It will just be a perk. Already for most things, they seem to have consistently the lowest price.”

The financial impact of such a broad and long promotion on the company is unclear, said Berger, the analyst. The costs, however, could be offset if Market Basket succeeds in attracting more customers.

“They’re obviously anticipating that they’ll build more traffic as a way of paying for this,” Berger said.

Globe correspondent Taryn Luna contributed to this report. Sarah Shemkus can be reached atseshemkus@gmail.com.
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