UKROP'S LINKS STORE BRANDS, CHARITY

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here has long had a reputation for supporting its communities with charitable giving. Now, it hopes to leverage that image to increase its private-label sales and customer loyalty.Ukrop's has donated $11.1 million to charity over the past 18 years through its Golden Gift program, which directed a portion of loyalty card sales during a given time frame -- typically

RICHMOND, Va. -- Ukrop's Super Markets here has long had a reputation for supporting its communities with charitable giving. Now, it hopes to leverage that image to increase its private-label sales and customer loyalty.

Ukrop's has donated $11.1 million to charity over the past 18 years through its Golden Gift program, which directed a portion of loyalty card sales during a given time frame -- typically a two-month period -- to local nonprofits.

As part of a partnership with Benevolink, a loyalty marketing company, Ukrop's made three major changes to the program. Giving is now based on sales of its Ukrop's-brand items as well as the Topco Associates lines Ukrop's carries. The retailer will donate 1% or so of private-label sales, varying that percentage as needed to reach an annual goal of $400,000.

Second, the program now operates year-round. Finally, the registration process changed. Card holders must register online with Benevolink, which directs them four times a year to designate their charities of choice, then distributes the money.

The updated program, which is being promoted via shelf tags, banners, print ads, circulars and its Web site, lets Ukrop's tell shoppers that these lines belong to its family of store brands; state the brand position of each one; and reinforce its association with charitable giving, said Scott Aronson, vice president of marketing for the retailer.

"We were looking for a program that could focus our energy on our family of brands," he said. This one, he said, "allows us to talk about what those brands are."

The shelf tags display the logos of the Ukrop's Golden Gift program and its other house brands, plus a positioning statement. Shelf tags for Ukrop's-brand products in produce and bakery, for example, identify the line as "Fresh, packaged and imported products." Those for Top Crest items, meanwhile, read "Everyday savings on everyday household cleaners and paper products."

Aronson said that by teaming with Benevolink, Ukrop's hopes to increase the percentage of shoppers participating in Golden Gift, which reached an estimated 30% to 40% in the past, and grow its private-label penetration.

"People are just unaware of what the products are and what they represent," he said.

Ukrop's is the first brick-and-mortar client of Benevolink, which links shoppers with retailers and nonprofits. The Atlanta-based company is seeking more traditional and nontraditional food retailers as clients, said Karen Clay, a vice president at Benevolink.

Benevolink also will let Ukrop's get, for the first time, store-by-store data on how shoppers directed their funds. Aronson said Ukrop's, whose loyalty marketing program is one of the industry's oldest, will try to use that data to bolster its ties with shoppers.