PRICE CHOPPER'S SENIOR SOLUTION

Loyalty marketing programs targeted at young mothers and families are nothing new for supermarket retailers. What's rare, however, are card-based efforts designed to reach another demographic: senior citizens.Yet that's exactly what Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., is doing. Recognizing the importance of adults age 60 and over, the chain has launched the Senior AdvantEdge Network, a

Loyalty marketing programs targeted at young mothers and families are nothing new for supermarket retailers. What's rare, however, are card-based efforts designed to reach another demographic: senior citizens.

Yet that's exactly what Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., is doing. Recognizing the importance of adults age 60 and over, the chain has launched the Senior AdvantEdge Network, a new loyalty initiative designed exclusively for seniors in the Albany, N.Y., area.

In partnership with Senior Services of Albany, a nonprofit organization, Price Chopper is providing discounts on select products sold in its supermarkets, as well as savings on nearly 25 community services, including financial and estate planning, long-term care insurance, medical testing and equipment, and restaurants and attractions. Additional partnerships will be formed as the program develops.

"Price Chopper is committed to the senior market, and to helping area seniors get the products and services they need," Neil Golub, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Seniors can register for free at customer service desks of all Capital-region Price Chopper supermarkets. Once they're members, they get a sticker to place on their Price Chopper AdvantEdge loyalty card. Membership provides access to exclusive savings in Price Chopper pharmacies, including 15% to 80% off prescription drug costs; and 50% off osteoporosis, blood pressure and diabetes screenings.

Along with pharmaceuticals, members can get $4 off all FTD orders placed at Price Chopper's floral departments.

The in-store discounts are a way for Price Chopper to appeal to customers who may otherwise buy their pharmaceuticals and floral arrangements elsewhere, according to Mona Golub, consumer services manager for Price Chopper, which operates about 100 stores in New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

"Pharmaceuticals and flowers are sold in many different places," Golub said. "This is our way of being competitive."

Food is not included in the program at this time, stated Golub.

Along with discounts at Price Chopper stores, members are entitled to savings on a broad spectrum of community products and services. Among them:

A free, in-home assessment from a registered nurse if home care services are ordered;

$200 discount on funeral services;

$5 off two dinners at select restaurants.

"This program will be a huge benefit to seniors and Senior Services of Albany as we continue to develop programs and services for seniors in our community," said Ann DiSarro, executive director, Senior Services of Albany.

Senior AdvantEdge is available in about 40 Price Chopper stores in the Capital region. There are no plans to expand it to other markets at this time, according to Golub. Between 3,000 to 4,000 seniors have registered so far.

Price Chopper provides all program support, including signs at Price Chopper pharmacies and customer service desks, and at partner stores. Senior AdvantEdge Network partners pay a small fee to Senior Services of Albany.

The program kicked off in June at a "Senior Night" at Price Chopper's Loudon Plaza store in Latham, N.Y. Nearly 1,000 people registered that night alone. The event included program information, as well as health screenings and product giveaways.

Price Chopper could be one of the first supermarkets to target seniors via a loyalty card, according to Glenn Hausfater, managing partner, Partners in Loyalty Marketing, Chicago, a consulting and research firm.

However, it's predicted that many more will eventually get involved.

"As the concept of loyalty marketing matures, retailers will not only continue to focus on the premium demographic of young families, but also to the 60-and-over population," said Spencer Hapoienu, president, Insight Out of Chaos, New York, a marketing management firm.

The reason for this is that retailers can't ignore the economic clout of the nation's aging population. Not only do seniors represent a large percentage of the population, they also have a high disposable income.

Plus, marketing to seniors is easier than to other demographic groups, Hapoienu said, citing that seniors' lives are less hectic than those of younger shoppers. Seniors also have more time to pay attention to offers.

"Retailers have more flexibility in terms of what they can offer seniors, compared to young families," he said.

Retailers that analyze seniors' loyalty card data could gain an advantage over mainstream retailers, and even Wal-Mart. Research has shown that because the senior demographic is more established and stable, they respond better to value-added programs and will maintain their loyalty longer.

Card-based programs like Price Chopper's can produce big payoffs in that they make seniors feel recognized and appreciated, said Dianne Durkin, president, Loyalty Factor, Portsmouth, N.H., a training and management consulting firm.

"People want to be viewed as being unique," she said. "There's a psychological effect to it."

To be successful, retailers can't rely on price discounts alone, Hapoienu stressed. Rather, they need to make sure that along with offering savings, they cater to senior lifestyles in other ways, such as stocking smaller packaging sizes and providing more convenient checkout lanes.

"Pharmacy items certainly make sense, but it needs to go beyond that to shelf sets, product mix and checkouts," Hapoienu said.

The main difficulty in executing senior-oriented loyalty programs is getting the right message across, according to PILM's Hausfater. That means understanding the differences between adults over 60 and aging baby boomers, who are still a few years away from turning 60. For instance, the over-60 group is synonymous with aging and retirement, while aging boomers are not.

"For the over-60 crowd, the message of 'You've worked hard all your life. You've earned. You deserve it' is appropriate," said Hausfater. That may not be the best way to communicate with boomers -- many of whom are still working and are several years away from retirement.

While both groups are interested in whole health, the over-60 group is focused on dealing with specific conditions like hypertension, weight, diabetes and heart disease. In contrast, aging baby boomers are more concerned with staving off these conditions with lifestyle changes and medicine, as opposed to medicine alone.