IGA'S WORLD TOUR BRINGS SALES

CHICAGO -- While they may be locally owned, IGA stores have products and values that are world-class.That was the message IGA retailers tried to convey through the alliance's three-year-old World Anniversary Sale, which was extended to the entire United States this year after a limited test in 2003.About 700 of IGA's 1,100 U.S. retailers participated in the event, which ran between Sept. 19 and Oct.

CHICAGO -- While they may be locally owned, IGA stores have products and values that are world-class.

That was the message IGA retailers tried to convey through the alliance's three-year-old World Anniversary Sale, which was extended to the entire United States this year after a limited test in 2003.

About 700 of IGA's 1,100 U.S. retailers participated in the event, which ran between Sept. 19 and Oct. 16. It offered deals on products from IGA Red Oval partners that are known worldwide -- Colgate-Palmolive, Gillette, Kraft, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Nestle Purina -- and IGA private-label items. Shoppers also got the chance to enter a sweepstakes to win $50 shopping sprees.

Paulo Goelzer, executive vice president of IGA's international division, said the promotion's intent was to ensure "the consumer can see global standards and the store has a link to worldwide, world-class manufacturers."

Jim Mirabito, owner of single-unit IGA Village Market in Hannibal, N.Y., seized on the international theme by decorating a front wall with pictures of flags representing the 40-plus countries where IGA operates. For visual impact, he gave each sale item a three-foot section of a gondola by the sign.

"Instead of just putting up a stack of Coke with a price on it," Mirabito said, "[Village Market] created the United Nations of Hannibal, N.Y., here."

The display got people talking. An oft-heard comment was, "Gee, I didn't know IGA was that big," recalled Mirabito. The event also helped move product. Total store sales grew 7.1% for the first week of the promotion, vs. the same period a year ago, above typical year-over-year sales growth of 2%.

"I was extremely pleased," Mirabito said.

Ted's IGA in Hebron, Conn., erected a bigger-than-usual display by packing sale items on the store's front endcaps, then bridging them with a display that carried more products and World Anniversary Sale posters. The spectacle helped drive sales increases of 15% and 12% in the first and second weeks, respectively, up from about 6%, owner Todge Armata said.

The promotion followed other changes by IGA -- the opening of more stores, including full-service ones, and introduction of a store assessment program -- that have helped counter what Armata called the banner's "stigma of being a smaller mom-and-pop store."

"We tried to explain that IGA is worldwide," said Armata, an IGA 2002 International Retailer of the Year. "We are still your local neighborhood store, but we have the buying force of a large organization."

Across the country, other IGA retailers added their own stamp to the promotion.

In California, the 18 IGA retailers served by C&S Wholesale Grocers' Sacramento division added a Jeep Wrangler as a grand prize and three trips to the runner-ups, paid for by the retailers, ad group and vendors, said Dick Kritsky, retail account executive for C&S. Store staffers wore buttons -- and in some cases, T-shirts -- promoting the Jeep giveaway.

"We just tried to make some fun out of it," Kritsky said. To give the sale exclusivity, C&S beefed up on items bearing the IGA store brand, he said.

For other retailers, tried-and-true promotional methods -- hotter-than-usual prices, endcap and lobby displays, point-of-sale materials -- drove sales lifts.

Gary & Leo's IGA, a three-store operation in Montana, had 12-packs of Coke on sale at three for $8 instead of the more typical $9. At Honey's IGA store in Vale, N.C., two-liter jugs of Pepsi were priced 10 for $10 the first week of the promotion, followed by 12-packs of Coke for $2.98 each the second week, aiding a 10% rise in overall store sales for the first week of the promotion, owner Bob Young said.

Raleigh Stone reported a 10% overall sales lift at his Cedar Village IGA store in Winlock, Wash., during the event.

"It went extremely well," he said. "We featured those products on the end displays, and that helped to move them. It was highlighted a lot more in the ad, so that helped. We also had case sales that promoted the private label. I'd do it again."

Mirabito said the event showed IGA can compete "with the biggest and the best of the biggest." He said he'd like to see IGA take the international theme a step further next time by, say, labeling products by country of origin to promote awareness of the global nature of the food industry. For example, he said, "There [are] a lot of people who don't realize peppers come from Mexico."

Participating retailers were eligible for best-of-display and best-of-sales awards.