GRAND UNION USES ROAD SERVICE AS REWARD

WAYNE, N.J. -- Grand Union's most loyal customers are receiving more than discountsthrough the retailer's frequent-shopper program. Grand Union Co. here is now providing its best cardholders with free roadside assistance as a way to reward their loyalty.The roadside service program is available to the top 5% of Grand Union's Savings Plus card holders, said Kim du Toit, director of card marketing for

WAYNE, N.J. -- Grand Union's most loyal customers are receiving more than discounts

through the retailer's frequent-shopper program. Grand Union Co. here is now providing its best cardholders with free roadside assistance as a way to reward their loyalty.

The roadside service program is available to the top 5% of Grand Union's Savings Plus card holders, said Kim du Toit, director of card marketing for Grand Union.

Each quarter, the retailer looks at cardholders' total weekly sales. By analyzing "a combination of their spending and loyalty, we are able to determine which customers qualify for the program," du Toit told SN. "It is another way for us to reward our customers' loyalty.

"We analyze who is spending their hard-earned money in our stores, and this is a way to reward them differently than those shoppers that do not shop as often with us," he added. "We expect the program will also help us to retain a good number of customers."

Grand Union began offering the roadside service program in December at half of its stores. The chain operates about 220 stores.

Customers are notified by mail if they are eligible for the roadside program. Should customers suffer a breakdown, a call to a designated toll-free number entitles participating cardholders to free towing up to 25 miles from the point of the breakdown; assistance for lockout service, when keys are locked inside a vehicle; aid in fixing flat tires; and even jump starts for dead car batteries.

Grand Union is paying less than 50 cents per customer, per year, to offer the program to its top customers, according to a source familiar with the situation. Grand Union declined to comment on the cost of the program.

Though he would not give a specific time frame, du Toit expects the roadside program to expand into other Grand Union stores. In addition, the retailer is looking into an extension of the program that would entitle customers to service when stranded in Grand Union parking lots, the source said.

"The program, 'Lots Of Caring,' offers the same service as the roadside program, however it will be open to all cardholders," said the source. "The service is available any time of the day, in any area, as long as the customer is in a Grand Union parking lot."

The roadside service is provided by Auto Road Services, Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Emergency Road Services, Thousand Oaks, Calif.