RETAILERS GIVE MORE SCHOOL REWARDS

NEW YORK -- Shoppers doing the math are finding that groceries targeting the back-to-school crowd this year are not only highly convenient, they also offer financial rewards with every purchase.The trend toward convenience can be seen in back-to-school Center Store promotions, with retailers such as Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper promoting multi-packs of individual servings in its store circular

NEW YORK -- Shoppers doing the math are finding that groceries targeting the back-to-school crowd this year are not only highly convenient, they also offer financial rewards with every purchase.

The trend toward convenience can be seen in back-to-school Center Store promotions, with retailers such as Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper promoting multi-packs of individual servings in its store circular and on its Web site.

One circular included a four-page insert featuring the headlines "Stuff your lunch box with these munchies" and "Quick n Easy" paired with photographs of items like Nature Valley 24-pack granola bars at $3.99 and Hunt's Snack Pack puddings, a four-pack for 99 cents.

Perhaps indicative of an even bigger trend this year, the insert also touted the retailer's involvement in the "Tools for Schools" program -- in which the retailer rewards purchases with computers and musical instruments delivered to a school of the shopper's choosing.

Programs like "Tools for Schools" that provide a clear link between manufacturer, retailer and consumer are gaining in popularity and can help add value to the shopping experience, something every retailer should strive for, according to Mel Korn, chief executive officer of Collaborative Marketing Worldwide, New York.

"How do you make sure your manufacturers, through the retailers, are adding value to the shopping experience? That becomes the real battle cry of this situation," Korn said.

Some do it through back-to-school programs that are customized for individual retailers.

Wakefern Food Corp., Elizabeth, N.J., wholesaler for ShopRite supermarkets, used its Web site to alert shoppers that from Aug. 10 to 24, Price Plus Card holders automatically received one sweepstakes entry with the purchase of any one item from the retailer's Kids Club program. Winners would receive a savings bond in the amount of $2,500. The event was sponsored by ConAgra Foods, owner of the Hunt's and Healthy Choice brands, to name a few.

Other retailers simply give shoppers money back during school days.

Denver-based King Soopers, a Kroger company, proclaims itself the place that "Gets You Ready" for school this year on its Web site. Through partnerships with numerous Center Store manufacturers, the chain offered shoppers money back on purchases: If they spent $50 to $99, they get $10 back for a future purchase and up to $60 back on purchases of $250 to $299. Qualifying products, which numbered more than 1,000 stockkeeping units and were marked with shelf tags in the store, included items from Frito-Lay, Kimberly Clark, Banquet, Gatorade, Lipton and Chef Boyardee, among others.

A&P, Montvale, N.J., dedicated a full "Back to School" page in its circular to different programs that help parents invest in the educational future of their child. Some of the manufacturers' programs highlighted included the General Mills "Box Top$ for Education," which offered consumers a chance to win 100 bonus box tops through Labor Day by purchasing cereal and Betty Crocker fruit snacks; Campbell's "Labels for Education," which offered 100 bonus labels with the purchase of any five Campbell's or Pepperidge Farm items; and Upromise, which is offering double and triple Upromise savings though Sept. 5 with purchases of items from Kellogg's, Keebler, Scott, Cottonelle, Huggies and Coca-Cola.

While these seasonal promotions will account for additional register rings, Korn told SN they can certainly be improved upon.

"These are very excellent programs to help build loyalty, but below the tip of the iceberg today is the issue that these grocery chains can really survive by differentiating themselves," Korn said. It just requires bundling items that are needed with discretionary items. For example, retailers could merchandise cereal in an aisle with backpacks to send the message that kids who eat the right breakfast will retain their learning, he said.