SANTA MAKES THE ROUNDS FOR A&P

PATERSON, N.J. -- For the pre-Christmas season this year, A&P's Atlantic Division here brought a new meaning to the term one-stop shopping by arranging for Santa Claus to appear in stores to hear the wishes of children."Our position is to make shopping as easy and convenient as possible, and to make it more pleasurable," said Tony Gasparro, vice president of advertising for the regional division,

PATERSON, N.J. -- For the pre-Christmas season this year, A&P's Atlantic Division here brought a new meaning to the term one-stop shopping by arranging for Santa Claus to appear in stores to hear the wishes of children.

"Our position is to make shopping as easy and convenient as possible, and to make it more pleasurable," said Tony Gasparro, vice president of advertising for the regional division, which includes the Super Fresh, A&P and Waldbaum's banners. There are about 300 stores in the division.

Besides creating an environment right for the holiday season, Gasparro said hiring Santas fits with A&P's overall strategy of attracting a younger audience, as it has endeavored to do with its Baby Club. In most stores, Santa was stationed in a high-traffic spot, Gasparro said, usually next to the No. 1 display, a grocery display.

One of the promotions tied to the appearances featured the words "Visit with Santa!" announced at the top of the front page of a Waldbaum's circular, on the left, next to an ad for Coca-Cola 12-pack cans showing St. Nick in his sleigh on the box. However, there was no direct connection with the Coca-Cola Co., Gasparro told SN.

Philadelphia and Baltimore Super Fresh stores were Santa's first stops during the Dec. 8-9 weekend. Santa was in all the Waldbaum's units on Long Island, Dec. 15 and 16, and in all the A&P stores Dec. 22 and 23. The Santa visits were held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. both weekend days.

Mars Advertising, Detroit, came up with the idea and located the Santas through a talent agency, Gasparro said. "We had very, very positive comments from the stores last weekend," he told SN during an interview on Dec. 13.

"It's another opportunity to give something back to our customers," Gasparro added.