GENUARDI'S SPONSORS BABY & TODDLER EXPO

NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Genuardi's Family Markets here has captured the young family demographic, starting with baby.Genuardi's was a presenting sponsor in April for the second annual Baby & Toddler Expo at the Fort Washington (Pa.) Center, which drew approximately 24,000 people over the course of three days. The consumer-oriented event featured information on having and raising children, product sampling

NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Genuardi's Family Markets here has captured the young family demographic, starting with baby.

Genuardi's was a presenting sponsor in April for the second annual Baby & Toddler Expo at the Fort Washington (Pa.) Center, which drew approximately 24,000 people over the course of three days. The consumer-oriented event featured information on having and raising children, product sampling and giveaways, on-floor sales of products, sweepstakes drawings and entertainment.

According to Frank Puleo, Genuardi's director of nonperishable merchandise, the chain nearly doubled its booth space this year to 4,000 square feet. Numerous vendors, including Kimberly-Clark and Beechnut, were on hand and giving out samples.

"We occupied one large booth of the Expo and made it like a pavilion," he explained. "We had Genuardi's representatives at the pavilion, plus a lot of our preferred vendors."

"They run their booth the same way we run our show," said J.J. Bodine, Expo coordinator, for the Fort Washington-based Baby Expo. "We have our space that's sold to different vendors. And Genuardi's does that on a smaller scale."

Chain executives and store managers were available to talk to Genuardi's customers, and to another important group: would-be Genuardi's customers.

"I believe we reinforced the profile of Genuardi's in the customer's mind as far as being a friendly, hospitable environment," said Puleo.

"We had an opportunity to interact with present customers. And a lot of people who came to the Expo were potential customers. So, we had a chance to relate to those people and have discussions in a non-business atmosphere. They asked us questions; we told them stories. And they just enjoyed themselves."

And Genuardi's enjoyed entertaining the Expo guests.

"Genuardi's is the king of giving out free gifts," said Baby Expo's Bodine. "As soon as you walked through the front door, after getting your ticket, Genuardi's was there with a tray of chocolate chip cookies. So that set the tone. They also had roving costumed characters entertaining; it's just a real warm community event."

"It was phenomenal; we were really pleased," said Puleo, who targeted the young family demographic profile.

"Our focus was on the customer from infant all the way up to the mother and father of that child, which could go up to 45 years old," he explained.

"We focused on the entire family in our pavilion. There certainly was a concentration of baby and toddler needs, but we also had products like ice cream. The whole family benefited from visiting our booth."

Genuardi's used the pavilion as a place to enlighten consumers about such things as its 5-A-Day, Cookie Club, and frequent video renter programs.

Based on the success of this event, Puleo said Genuardi's "will definitely sponsor the 1996 Baby & Toddler Expo to be held next spring. It is an unparalleled opportunity to interact with the consumers of the [Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware] area, and will allow them the opportunity to gain exposure to the difference of Genuardi's."

Baby Expo's Bodine noted that some $250,000 was spent advertising the Expo, on everything from billboards, television, radio and newspaper advertising to individual local parent magazines.

"But what has also been a great asset is that Genuardi's advertises for us and for themselves. They see 300,000 people a week come through their stores, where they do everything from 30-second air spots in the supermarkets over the PA system to shelf talkers.

"Every product by a participating Baby Expo company had a shelf talker which said, 'Come see us at the Baby & Toddler Expo.' We also placed huge posters in the stores. And at every cash register there was a poster telling consumers to 'Ask for a dollar off [admission] coupon here.'

"We really couldn't overlook the number of people coming through the stores and how many of them may be shopping for their families," said Bodine.

Admission for the Expo was $4; children under 2 got in free.

As successful as the event was, Bodine doesn't see it expanding to more than once a year. "We may be able to get the people to show up, but as far as tapping the vendors more than once a year..."

Nevertheless, Bodine said the Baby Expo has started to look at other markets to set up similar events.