SHOPPERS GET A SAMPLE OF DOMINICK'S GOOD TASTE

CHICAGO -- Dominick's Finer Foods here has stepped up in-store sampling as part of a demo campaign to increase sales of Center Store products.The retailer teams with its vendors every other week for a heavily publicized "Taste of Dominick's" promotion that has become a favorite with Windy-City shoppers.Details of the promotion were disclosed by Sheila Janek, in-house manager at Dominick's for New

CHICAGO -- Dominick's Finer Foods here has stepped up in-store sampling as part of a demo campaign to increase sales of Center Store products.

The retailer teams with its vendors every other week for a heavily publicized "Taste of Dominick's" promotion that has become a favorite with Windy-City shoppers.

Details of the promotion were disclosed by Sheila Janek, in-house manager at Dominick's for New York-based News America Marketing, on June 10 when she spoke here at a Stand-out Sampling Strategies conference jointly sponsored by the Institute for International Research and Promotion Marketing Association, both based in New York.

Since 1995, News America Marketing has maintained an office at Dominick's suburban Northlake, Ill., headquarters to manage the Taste of Dominick's program. News America is the chain's exclusive demo provider.

Janek said the event, originally called Vendorfest, was held once a month, but proved so popular with the general public and Dominick's management that it was rechristened "Taste of Dominick's." It's now held twice a month in every Dominick's store.

"News America Marketing has put an equipment cabinet in every Dominick's store," Janek noted.

"We have skillets, microwaves and toaster ovens. Every store looks the same and has [demo tables covered with] white, crisp tablecloths. What we've done is raise the bar in the store so that all of the brands look equal."

Janek said Taste of Dominick's incorporates products from five manufacturers. For a $16,000 fee, the manufacturer gets its product demonstrated in each Dominick's store for two days, along with an ad in the weekly circular, in-store radio announcements and other in-store support, including balloons and point-of-purchase signs.

News America uses holiday themes for some of its promotions.

"July 4th is coming up, so everything is going to be flags and stars," Janek said.

News America also has a "point person" in each Dominick's store.

"This is fabulous because we have somebody to talk to," Janek pointed out. "If there's a problem, we can talk to that person and [he] becomes the liaison between Dominick's and the vendor."

While Taste of Dominick's incorporates products from throughout the store, many are Center Store items. Quaker and Old El Paso Mexican foods are among the brands that have participated in recent events.

During a prior session at the conference, some members of a consumer focus-group panel of Chicagoland consumers made a point of saying that they like shopping at Dominick's because of the Taste of Dominick's program.

"Dominick's ads now tell what they'll be sampling, and I like that," said one female panelist. "Sometimes I'll go to the store when I really don't have to just to get the samples."