Albert Heijn, the flagship store chain of the embattled Ahold group, is to slash the prices of a wide range of food products from today.
The cuts, which will range from around 7 to 30 per cent, have been introduced after fierce consumer criticism of Albert Heijn's pricing policy - and a significant fall in customer numbers as a result.
"We have over the past few months paid close attention to criticism from our customers, who consider us too expensive. We have taken the criticism to heart and we are working hard to regain lost clientele," Albert Heijn director Dick Boer told Dow Jones
Competition in the Dutch retail sector has become particularly fierce this year as a result of a sharp downturn in consumer spending - particularly bad timing given Ahold's annus horribilis.
But the company's attempts to maintain margins at the Albert Heijn chain have backfired, with customers simply shopping elsewhere - a salutary lesson regarding the extent of customer loyalty when belts are tightened.
Albert Heijn has regularly offered a limited number of products at discounted prices, but this has failed to attract shoppers into its stores in sufficient numbers, forcing the company to finally agree to reduce its prices.
But the falling market share at Albert Heijn has already taken a lasting toll on the company, with a number of jobs set to go at the company's corporate offices and distribution operations as the chain restructures to better meet current market demands.
Further cost cutting measures have also been introduced to keep prices as low as possible while maintaining the company's focus on quality, innovation, choice and service, the company said.
Albert Heijn, named after the founder of the Ahold empire, operates under four different formats: the conventional Albert Heijn supermarket, the extra-large Albert Heijn XL supermarket, the AH to go convenience store and the Internet-based home delivery service, Albert.