PRICE CHOPPER TOWEL EVENT FOUND ABSORBING

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Interest in a towel continuity remained strong at Price Chopper Supermarkets here even though prices were raised $1 over the last promotion.Nearly 1 million units were sold in the four-month-long promotion, which closely matched the volume Price Chopper generated in a similar continuity held in the spring of 1994, said a trade observer. Chain executives declined to comment.Raising

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. -- Interest in a towel continuity remained strong at Price Chopper Supermarkets here even though prices were raised $1 over the last promotion.

Nearly 1 million units were sold in the four-month-long promotion, which closely matched the volume Price Chopper generated in a similar continuity held in the spring of 1994, said a trade observer. Chain executives declined to comment.

Raising retail prices by $1 almost across the board had no apparent effect on sales, said the observer. Price points ranged from 99 cents to $7.99.

The price increase stemmed from spiraling increased demand in the cotton market.

"Apparel and textile producers have moved away from synthetics and into natural fibers. This applies to home bedding textiles since everybody is pushing 100% cotton sheets instead of 50-50 blends," the observer said.

Historically, supermarket retailers vary continuity products, waiting a few years before repeating the same item. However, customer requests for the towels prompted Price Chopper to rerun the promotion sooner. It ended last month.

"Customer interest in the department store quality items remained quite high ever since the last one," said the observer. Price Chopper ads read "Back by Popular Demand! Luxurious Towels of Superb Quality at Incredible Prices."

Under the campaign, supplied by Encore Promotions, Hicksville, N.Y., assorted plush, heavyweight towel products were offered below cost. The new colors of raspberry and vanilla were added, while white was dropped from the mix. Although the 91-store chain kicked off the towel sale at higher retails, it lowered the purchase requirements. To buy each piece at the promotional price, customers had to complete a 20-stamp saver card, rather than a 30-stamp card. A customer received a stamp with each $5 purchase, so each filled-in card represented $100 instead of $150 in total store purchases. Each filled-in saver card allowed a shopper to purchase one of the following: a bath towel at $2.99, compared with the regular retail price of $5.99; a hand towel, $1.99, compared with $4.99; king towel, $7.99, down from $10.99; striped bath towel, $3.99, from $6.99; wash cloth, 99 cents, from $3.99; bath mat, $3.99, from $6.99. Stores devoted extensive space to the plush towels, which were arranged in various areas in the store. A display took up 24 feet of wall space at a Price Chopper in Vermont.