RETAILERS WEAVE WEB SITES FOR CHILDREN

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Kroger Co. and Wegmans Food Markets are among the retailers reaching out to their younger customers via the Internet.The Kroger Marketing Area here has launched Pepe's Playhouse Fun Pages, an electronic newsletter that contains fun activities, education and discounts for kids. The newsletter is available through the retailer's web site (www.krogerusa.com). Similarly, Rochester, N.Y.-based

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Kroger Co. and Wegmans Food Markets are among the retailers reaching out to their younger customers via the Internet.

The Kroger Marketing Area here has launched Pepe's Playhouse Fun Pages, an electronic newsletter that contains fun activities, education and discounts for kids. The newsletter is available through the retailer's web site (www.krogerusa.com). Similarly, Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans offers a W-Kids page on its web site (www.wegmans.com).

The Kroger newsletter runs four times a year. Prepared under the guidance of an educational advisory council, it contains five departments: Kids Speak Out, Fun Stuff, Contact Pepe, Features and Parents' Page. The parents' page includes recipes and a calender of children's events.

Pepe's Fun Pages also features special discounts to parents whose children are members of Pepe's Playhouse, an in-house baby-sitting service the Kroger division here created last year as a way to give parents more time to shop. Children ages 3 to 9 are accepted.

Parents receive a membership card when they register their children at Pepe's. When they show the card to the cashier, they get the discounts offered in the Fun Pages.

Recent discounts included 50 cents off two packages of Kroger 12-count donuts, $1 off the purchase of two packages of Kroger Instant Oatmeal, $1 off two 12- to 18-ounce jars of Kroger jelly or preserves, $1 off two packages of Cow Pals Strip Cheese, $1 off the purchase of one half gallon of Kroger Texas Gold ice cream and a free loaf of Kroger Tender Twist 20-ounce white bread with the purchase of an 18-ounce jar of Kroger peanut butter. New items are offered every three months.

On the parent's recipe page are directions for making quick and easy snacks for children. In the first issue, recipes included favorites such as English muffin pizza and hot dog wrap-ups.

As reported, Pepe's Playhouse is supervised by store associates who have been certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the Heimlich Maneuver.

When a child is dropped off at the child-care area, parents sign a consent form and provide general information on the child, including name, birth date, special needs and other emergency information.

The maximum time a child can spend in the area is an hour.

When SN visited a store in the Columbus area, youngsters were enjoying Sega, an electronic game system, and computers. Other children were playing with old-fashioned Barbie dolls and board games. Coloring and crafts also are offered.

Like the Kroger site, the Wegmans page offers fun and recipes. The table of contents enables youngsters to choose from five characters: Bubba the Bear, Riley the Rabbit, Scout the Snake, Jazzy the Cat and Megabyte the Shark. Once they choose a character, they are offered coloring pages, experiments with food and recipes.