Contests Seek to Win Customers

At Harris Teeter, every 400th shopper wins their purchase for free. At A&P, they're giving away $3.2 million in prizes, including Weber gas grills at every store and three Ford Mustangs. At United Supermarkets, the Road to Riches contest is offering the chance for a $1 million grand prize and a fleet of vehicles including an antique car, a SeaDoo jet ski and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. If it seems

At Harris Teeter, every 400th shopper wins their purchase for free. At A&P, they're giving away $3.2 million in prizes, including Weber gas grills at every store and three Ford Mustangs. At United Supermarkets, the Road to Riches contest is offering the chance for a $1 million grand prize and a fleet of vehicles including an antique car, a SeaDoo jet ski and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

If it seems like there are an awful lot of contests going on in the supermarket industry today, you win — there probably are. Sparked in part by a troubled economy and by the heavy competition that accompanies it, retailers are increasingly adding promotional pieces to their overall marketing approach, observers say.

“Overall, I would say the emphasis on promotional marketing has gone up,” Jim Hertel, managing partner at Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill., told SN. “Retailers are usually doing some kind of marketing most of the time, using promotions to generate some news and drive some traffic. But what we see in times like this are people doing it just a little more. The stimulus is the economy and companies like Wal-Mart which are raising the temperature for the competitive market.”

For consumers, the prospect of becoming a winner in a difficult environment holds extra appeal, Britt Beamer, chairman of America's Research Group, told SN.

“Sometimes, contests can allow customers to be able to say, ‘This could make a difference for me. I may pay extra to shop a certain store, but the chance of winning this game will more than make up for what I pay extra to shop there,'” he said.

At United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, contests are not sparked as much by the economy as they are by the season. Its shoppers — at United Supermarkets, United Amigos and Market Street stores — have become accustomed to an annual summer contest that for United helps keep the attention of its shoppers through the summer months, according to Eddie Owens, a United spokesman.

The Road to Riches game, launched late last month, provides shoppers with game cards with every purchase, and bonus tickets tied to the purchase of certain items in the store. Parts of the ticket can be affixed to a game booklet to collect and win, while other parts can reveal instant prizes and codes that can be played on the Internet.

United ran a similar game based on the Monopoly board game in previous summers, but last year tried a scratch-and-win game that was not as successful, Owens told SN.

“We had some infrastructure issues tied to the Web version of the game, and we didn't have any big winners. It was problematic,” he said.

So United returned to the collect-and-win format this year. (Albertsons LLC, working with the same contest operator, CPS Inc., Kennesaw, Ga., ran the Monopoly game in Texas earlier this year.)

“The economy played a minor role in our decision to move forward, but probably isn't a huge factor,” Owens said. “We've gotten to a point were we know we need a summertime promotion. Summer is that time period where there is a break in the action, between the holidays and peak selling season.”

A&P, Montvale, N.J., launched the Big Red Grocery Giveaway this spring in concert with the company's 150th anniversary. Similar to United's contest, the game encourages shoppers at A&P-owned stores to collect game pieces and instant prizes by buying particular products.

“One of the big issues with grocers is that it's very difficult to give shoppers a reason to shop their store on a loyal and consistent basis, particularly when the economy downturns,” Dan Campbell, CEO of WSP International, the Toronto-based firm that developed the game with A&P. “The reality is, the customer starts to watch prices closely and they're prone to switch where they shop. Giving them a reason to come into the store on a regular basis is a good thing.”