A&P CANADA UNITS REWARD LOYALTY WITH AIR MILE PLAN

TORONTO -- Some stores in A&P's Canada division have converted their frequent-shopper programs into a reward program that entitles customers to earn air miles based on store purchases."We have had frequent-shopper programs in our division, spanning over four years in some stores, and we realized they were limited in what they offer our customers," said Bill Sheine, vice president of marketing for

TORONTO -- Some stores in A&P's Canada division have converted their frequent-shopper programs into a reward program that entitles customers to earn air miles based on store purchases.

"We have had frequent-shopper programs in our division, spanning over four years in some stores, and we realized they were limited in what they offer our customers," said Bill Sheine, vice president of marketing for A&P Canada. "Instead of having separate frequent-shopper programs with different names and rewards, now all stores have a unified program."

The air miles program is now live throughout the province of Ontario, in 180 stores under A&P, Dominion, Super Fresh and Ultra Food banners.

A&P is among approximately 100 sponsors that enable customers to earn air miles based on purchases made with the participating retailers.

"Customers can accumulate air miles by shopping with us and a number of other noncompeting retailers involved in the program," Sheine said. "This program allows us to give a greater value to our customers, without taking away any [expected] benefits. We kept our database of customers [to track purchases] and consider the air miles an expansion of our frequent-shopper program."

Customers are issued membership cards, which are presented during checkout. For every $20 a customer spends at an A&P banner, he or she earns one air mile.

The associated air carriers that accept the travel miles are Canadian Airlines, Calgary, Alberta; American Airlines, Dallas; U.S. Airways, Arlington, Va.; and United, Chicago.

"Customers can also earn bonus miles depending on certain item specials we run, and any given week we could offer up to 1,000 bonus air-mile products," Sheine explained. "The other participating retailers have their own structure in place to earn miles." Customers using an American Express or MasterCard Air Miles credit card at the A&P stores also earn additional air miles, he told SN.

The retailer monitors issued miles on a weekly basis to eliminate fraud and abuse of the frequent-shopper program. In addition, A&P provides a quarterly statement to participating customers that indicates an individual's accumulated miles.

"Customers can redeem the air miles, via a toll free '800' number, for travel and similar rewards," said Sheine. "We also allow customers to redeem 100 miles toward a $20 gift certificate to be used toward grocery purchases in our stores."

Though he would not give specific results, Sheine is pleased with the progress of the air miles program since its launch in August. "Throughout Ontario, we have at least one million cardholders," he explained. "Offering travel miles has allowed us to take our frequent-shopper program one step further."

A&P is promoting the air mile program in conjunction with the marketing firm, Loyalty Group, here.