SUPER FRESH'S SUPER MIX

FLORENCE, N.J. -- A&P's Super Fresh Food Markets is reaching out to all its customers by integrating ethnic greeting cards into its full line sections.At its 15 to 20 inner-city stores, Super Fresh is remerchandising its ethnic cards by moving them from a separate 4-foot fixture to the main card rack, where they are being interspersed with everyday assortments. In making this move, the retailer has

FLORENCE, N.J. -- A&P's Super Fresh Food Markets is reaching out to all its customers by integrating ethnic greeting cards into its full line sections.

At its 15 to 20 inner-city stores, Super Fresh is remerchandising its ethnic cards by moving them from a separate 4-foot fixture to the main card rack, where they are being interspersed with everyday assortments. In making this move, the retailer has doubled its African-American card selections to about 200 designs.

Shifting African-American cards to the main fixture "is a strategy aimed at producing a sales impact on the overall department by exposing shoppers coming in for ethnic cards to the rest of the mix," said Ralph Chiodo, director of general merchandise and health and beauty care for Super Fresh here.

Highlighting ethnic, holiday and seasonal selections and aggressively promoting the department has enabled the chain to boost its greeting card sales 15% to 20% in the past year.

At Super Fresh, the card department acts "as a profit center for us with its full margins that offset our heavily discounted health and beauty care sections, and it helps defray the cost of hotly competitive HBC products," said the retailer.

Sales tracking data indicates that Super Fresh stores with a higher composition of African-American and Hispanic shoppers have a higher mix of general birthday, sympathy and get well selections.

"Customers in those [market] areas will send more of these cards," explained Don Pacitti, Ambassador's retail service manager. "At inner-city stores, sales trends show sympathy cards sell better than in areas where the population is better educated and have a high income level," he added.

The sales data also reveal that affluent customers tend to purchase plain, low-priced sympathy cards, while low-income shoppers will purchase a high-priced sympathy card that has more verse. In some cases, the card is sent in place of giving flowers," said Pacitti.

In Jewish neighborhoods, card racks contain a broader assortment of bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah, Jewish new year, Yom Kippur and Hannukah cards. At those stores during the Jewish Rosh Hashanah New Year Sept. 5, the retailer arranged 2-foot to 4-foot expanded displays of New Year's cards at a seasonal area of the card section.

For example, targeting Jewish card shoppers with a 100-card variety that addresses their needs at the Bustleton Avenue Super Fresh in Philadelphia has increased ethnic card volume there about 30%, according to the vendor.

By concentrating on the ethnic card shopper at designated stores, Super Fresh is able to set itself apart from card shops, discounters and other card retailers that primarily carry everyday cards for the general public.

According to Chiodo, ethnic cards are sometimes suitable at stores in nonethnic neighborhoods. "They can be at all departments because people will have ethnic friends to whom they will send those cards, and I think you touch every person by having ethnic cards worked into the mainstream mix."

Displaying a larger ethnic card mix in a regular card rack enables the chain "to better satisfy that ethnic card customer with greater product depth than the 100 selections that the 4-foot section held,"said John Conaghan Jr., an executive at Ambassador Cards.

"We weren't fully realizing the sales opportunities ethnic cards represent, especially in ethnic neighborhoods," added Chiodo.