BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. -- By bringing together marketing and community relations, Ingles Markets here has provided schools in six Southeastern states with approximately $1.5 million worth of free school equipment.
The chain hopes to increase that amount to $2 million in 1999.
The program, called "Tapes of Education," requires the collection of Ingles' receipts at area schools for redemption on school equipment. "We're a community minded company in six different states," said Tom Outlaw, president sales management, Ingles. "We wanted to show our community involvement no matter where we are -- in small or large towns."
Receipts from Ingles' stores are collected at participating schools. Every dollar spent in an Ingles store counts toward free educational equipment. The schools add up the amount on the receipt and exchange that value for the items displayed in the catalog. Each item in the catalog shows the receipt amount needed to be received for free.
"There's a sales correlation there," said Outlaw. "Where student's parents and teachers get involved in the program, it's going to be good for our business."
Ingles has also mentioned the program in its television and print advertisements to inform consumers without children, or with children not in school about the program. Outlaw would not say exactly how many schools were involved in the program.
"It's very versatile," said Outlaw. "We have a catalog that schools choose equipment from. We go the gamut from handheld calculators to computers to sports equipment." Ingles offers more than 1,500 educational items available to them through the "Tapes of Education" program, items ranging from iMacs to musical instruments.
"Some schools have saved over $2 million in [Ingles] register tapes last year," said a source familiar with the situation.
Outlaw said so far the reaction from customers and the community has been very positive.
"We get a lot of letters from schools and parents, especially in the rural areas that don't have the money from the board that schools in urban areas have," he said. "It's been an excellent program."
The cause-related marketing program is supported by Universal Promotions, a third-party marketing company based in Pittsburgh.