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Report to Aisle50 for the grocery deal of the day

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In the increasingly crowded world of daily deal sites, Aisle50.com is scheduled to launch on Monday morning.

Instead of offering up teeth whitening sessions or horseback riding lessons, Aisle50 will be selling groceries at an average discount of 50 percent off retail price.

“It’s stuff everybody uses at a store you already shop at,” said Christopher Steiner, 34, one of the three founders of the Silicon Valley startup, believed to be the first daily deal site in the country exclusively selling groceries.

Aisle50, which eventually plans to go nationwide, is launching in North Carolina and South Carolina in a partnership with Winston Salem-based Lowes Foods.

For the fledgling business, it’s a chance to work with a grocery chain with strong regional name recognition and a built-in customer base.

For Lowes Foods, it’s an opportunity to be the first grocery store in a highly competitive market to offer something new to increasingly tech-savvy customers as well as the rising number of shoppers finding themselves pinching pennies in a tough economy.

“We’re interested in providing any service that saves our customers money and time,” Lowes Foods spokeswoman Heather George said. "With the economy the way it is, customers are taking advantage of every opportunity available to save."

Steiner said Aisle50 is in negotiations with other supermarket chains on the East Coast, with eventual plans to expand to the Midwest and West Coast, though he declined to name specific stores.

Aisle 50’s inaugural deal at Lowes Foods is for a 32-ounce tub of Chobani Greek yogurt, which regularly sells for $5.79. It will be offered at more than 50 percent off, Steiner said.

Future deals include discounts on gallons of Lowes Foods milk, eggs and International Delights creamers, Steiner said.

Will budget-minded consumers in North Carolina, who are accustomed to generous coupon policies, be interested in Aisle50 deals?

Phil Lempert, a grocery industry analyst who calls himself the Supermarket Guru, said Aisle50 is an “interesting concept” and said he thinks shoppers will give the site a try.

“It should find a place alongside traditional and digital coupons and likely force deeper discounts rather than just a 25- or 50-cent offer," Lempert said.

Educating customers will be a key issue to the site's success, Lempert said. Aisle50 needs to make it clear to shoppers that the deal is stored on their cards and redeemed the next time they go shopping – “not that you have to run to the store and redeem that day or within a few hours.”

Lempert said he also sees the concept as a way for stores to better control inventory so shoppers aren’t disappointed by cleared shelves, “which we are seeing more of these days due to those ‘extreme couponers’ out there,” he said.

No one views Aisle50 as a replacement for traditional paper coupons. "The paper coupons are stronger than ever," George, the Lowes Foods spokeswoman, said.

Aisle50, she said, will just give customers another method to save, no scissors required.

“It sort of makes sense so customers don’t have to go through the ordeal of clipping coupons and keeping track of them,” George said.

Steiner pointed out coupons are rarely issued on many of the products that Aisle 50 plans to sell, such as milk and eggs.

Here’s how Aisle50 will work:

Similar to Groupon and other daily deal sites, once shoppers sign up they will get an email alerting them to the deal of the day. “If they’re not interested, they just move on,” Steiner said.

Shoppers will have one day to buy the featured product at about 50 percent off the regular retail price from Aisle50. Limit one. No coupons accepted. They’ll have 90 days to pick up the item in their local stores.

If customers do decide to make a purchase, Steiner said, they will plug in their payment information and store loyalty card number. On subsequent purchases, customers will simply verify their information and click buy.

The item will be then be loaded onto the customer's store loyalty card. When the cashier swipes the card and rings up the order, the price of the deal item will be subtracted from the order total.

During the launch, new Aisle 50 deals will be available every few days. But as the site gets rolling, Steiner said, a new deal will be released every day for one day only.

Click here to sign up for Aisle50.

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Last updated: Sunday, Oct. 6. | How to read this | View full page
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