PAY LESS, RED GOLD BUILD BRIDGE IN MADISON COUNTY

ANDERSON, Ind. -- In what could have been dubbed "The Attack of the Killer Tomato Displays," Pay Less Supermarkets here made a killing promoting a locally produced brand of tomato products.The eight-unit independent teamed up with Red Gold, Elwood, Ind., for a massive four-week promotion on Red Gold canned tomato products, ketchup, seafood sauce, tomato juice and salsa through which Pay Less moved

ANDERSON, Ind. -- In what could have been dubbed "The Attack of the Killer Tomato Displays," Pay Less Supermarkets here made a killing promoting a locally produced brand of tomato products.

The eight-unit independent teamed up with Red Gold, Elwood, Ind., for a massive four-week promotion on Red Gold canned tomato products, ketchup, seafood sauce, tomato juice and salsa through which Pay Less moved 9,000 cases of products.

"The first week our sales were probably nine times what normal sales would have been in our stores," Rod Boni, grocery merchandiser at Pay Less, told SN. "During the second week we expected some kind of drop-off, but sales were still 60% of what they were the first week, which we thought was excellent."

Boni said the promotion helped build consumer recognition that Pay Less is locally owned and operated, as is Red Gold.

"We have been portraying ourselves as the home team in our two marketing areas of Anderson and Lafayette because we've had a recent insurgence of Meijer supercenters. We wanted to remind people that we've been in Lafayette for almost 40 years and in Anderson for almost 50 years.

"Since Red Gold is in Madison County as we are, we thought it would be a unique and natural promotion to do a Red Gold promotion. Plus, the Red Gold products do an outstanding job in our stores and throughout central Indiana, which gave us an extra incentive to promote them," Boni explained.

The "Home Teamato" promotion began March 11 and was merchandised through in-store displays, as well as in circulars and in-store signs. The circulars included recipes for items such as meat loaf that used Red Gold products, as well as items throughout the store.

"In addition to massive displays in the lobby area and promotion aisles, we put displays in other departments. We put ketchup in the meat department, seafood sauce in the seafood department, salsa in our deli area with deli chips. We put some tomato sauce in produce. We tried to tie in with virtually

all the departments in the store," Boni said.

In some of its larger stores, displays in the shape of the Pay Less logo, a golden apple, were built out of 56 cases of Red Gold products.

"The customers really seemed to like it because it was something different and unique," he said, adding that the stores were decorated with red and gold balloons and crepe paper.

Based on the success of the promotion, Boni said Pay Less is examining setting up promotions with other local manufacturers, and may make the Red Gold sale an annual event.

"With the success that this has shown thus far, we sure are going to look strongly at doing it again next year. It hasn't been a success just from a sales standpoint, but also from the positive comments that we got from our customers and store associates," he said.

Jack Lynch, branded sales manager at Red Gold, said Pay Less did a "fantastic" job marketing his products.

"This promotion reminds me of the way stores used to promote and display 15 or 20 years ago," he said.

Lynch said that midway through the promotion Pay Less placed an order for an additional 600 cases aside from the 8,400 it initially ordered.

Lynch said while Pay Less was offering the items at good prices, they were by no means loss-leaders. Mild salsa was offered at 99 cents a 17-ounce can, diced tomatoes were 99 cents for two 14.5-ounce cans and a 12-ounce bottle of seafood sauce was 99 cents. A 32-ounce keg of ketchup and a 46-ounce can of tomato juice were both on sale for 79 cents.

"These items aren't at giveaway prices," Boni explained. "They are all great values that are specially priced, but this is not a loss-leader-type program. It is value-priced. We're selling outstanding products that have a good local image. We put all the ingredients together there: the home-grown and the price-value relationship, plus the displays and all the awareness we created through our displays, advertising and signage. The customers really were aware that something unique was going on."