CHAINS EXTEND FREE STAMP CAMPAIGNS

Supermarkets are fine-tuning and expanding promotions that offer a free 32-cent postage stamp with the purchase of a greeting card.Free stamp programs, usually promoted in ads and circulars or in-store signage, have pumped up incremental card volume at a number of chains, including Grand Union, Wayne, N.J. which has expanded its free stamp program; the Atlanta division of A&P, Montvale, N.J., which

Supermarkets are fine-tuning and expanding promotions that offer a free 32-cent postage stamp with the purchase of a greeting card.

Free stamp programs, usually promoted in ads and circulars or in-store signage, have pumped up incremental card volume at a number of chains, including Grand Union, Wayne, N.J. which has expanded its free stamp program; the Atlanta division of A&P, Montvale, N.J., which has started electronically dispensing a coupon for a 32-cent stamp; and Pathmark Stores, Woodbridge, N.J., which has deducted 32 cents from the price of select greeting cards.

Grand Union has offered a free stamp with the purchase of a greeting card for past 18 months. The program worked so well that the retailer now runs the program year-round.

"We felt that this would be a very good sales promotion for greeting cards," said Don Vaillancourt, director of corporate communications.

The merchandising strategy offers a free 32-cent stamp with a single card purchased from the mainline fixtures in the greeting card center. Boxed Christmas and other bulk items usually are excluded.

Customers receive a free stamp for each card purchased. They obtain the stamp at the checkout, which is where the chain normally sells postage stamps at cost, said Vaillancourt.

Although the stamp promotion has put a positive spin on Grand Union's card volume, measuring its direct impact on sales increases "has been difficult, since we've been putting additional card selections in stores," Vaillancourt said. At A&P's Atlanta division, free stamps that promote greeting cards at select holidays, including graduation, create higher card movement, said a company source who asked to remain anonymous. During May and June, the chain used ads and circulars to draw attention to its card sections with an Ambassador Graduation Day Card special and free stamps. Ads read, in part, "You Buy The Card and We Buy The Stamp." At A&P, greeting cards are paid for at the checkout, where a point-of-sale terminal recently started electronically dispensing a coupon for a 32-cent stamp. The coupon can be redeemed at the courtesy booth. "It helped sell a lot of cards," said the source. Randalls Food Market, Houston, promotes free postage stamps in overhead signs posted over the front of grocery aisles several weeks before Mother's and Father's Day and Grandparents' Day. "A customer receives a Catalina Marketing coupon at the checkout registers and takes it to the courtesy booth for a free 32-cent stamp," according to one source. The chain also arranges mail drop boxes on tables close to the checkouts at Mother's Day, Christmas, Grandparents' Day, Father's Day and Valentine's Day. A letter carrier that delivers mail to the stores picks up the letters each morning, saving shoppers a trip to the post office, the source said. The chain declined to comment. Pathmark promoted its American Greetings 'Forget Me Not' card line with a free 32-cent stamp as a Smart Coupon feature in May and June. Point-of-Sale signs at the card racks read, "Mail Your Card on Us." Free stamp offers can work as a positive inducement to spur greeting cards sales, according to Jim McDowell, marketing director, Ambassador Cards, Kansas City, Mo. "It's a benefit- and recipient-oriented strategy that encourages people to send a card, not buy a stamp," McDowell said. Tim Franklin, director, advertising and sales promotions, American Greetings, Cleveland, said the free stamp promotion is a simple, yet effective way to increase incremental sales. "Originally, we ran this promotion for Mother's Day and graduation (for several years running)," Franklin said. "Now our retailers run the free stamp promotion to drive incremental sales during non-holiday time periods, too."