ST. LOUIS — Supermarkets get an “A” for effort in educational fund-raising.
Along with supporting manufacturer-driven programs like Campbell's Labels for Education and General Mills' Box Tops for Education, retailers have their own initiatives in place to help students get free educational and athletic merchandise.
Among the efforts:
• Hy-Vee Smiles for Education: An eight-week promotion that awards schools $5,000 each and a laptop computer to select students.
• Stop & Shop A+ BonusBucks: Points accrue with each purchase made with loyalty cards. Tropicana, General Mills, Kraft Foods and Nestlé are among the manufacturer partners.
• Big Y Education Express: Shoppers earn points each time they use a loyalty card to purchase items with the Education Express logo shelf tag. They can redeem points for educational equipment and supplies.
• Schnucks eScrip: Every time the eScrip card is presented and scanned at the checkout, a percentage of the total grocery bill is contributed to the customer's designated school or other nonprofit organization.
Account-specific versions of manufacturer programs are also in place.
Food Lion, for instance, is currently running the “Labels for Education School vs. School Challenge,” a customized version of Campbell's Labels for Education, which awards points to those who save UPC codes from participating products and mail them in. Points can be redeemed for free art, education and athletic supplies.
Shoppers can set up a “School vs. School” account by entering their loyalty card number and other information at www.foodlion.com/LFEchallenge. They receive 100 Labels for Education points just for registering. The school that earns the most Labels for Education points through April 30, 2010, gets a grand prize of 1 million points.
Food Lion spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown described the program as a way for Food Lion to give back to the community.
“Food Lion has a strong commitment to serving as a caring neighbor and strong community partner, and we are pleased to be able to assist various schools in our community during these difficult times,” Phillips-Brown told SN.
Food Lion is not alone.
Price Chopper has committed more than $500,000 to “Tools for Schools,” which awards one point for every dollar spent at Price Chopper with a loyalty card. Points can be redeemed for educational equipment.
This year's Tools for Schools promotion kicked off Aug. 2 and runs through Feb. 13, 2010. Brands from Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Clorox and other companies are among the sponsors.
Hy-Vee's Smiles for Education started in 2005 as a way for Hy-Vee to celebrate its 75th anniversary. It was so well-received that the company has continued it each year.
The program begins in mid-August (back-to-school time in Hy-Vee's operating area) and runs for eight weeks. Each week, customers can nominate their favorite students, grades K-12, to be among the 10 winners selected at random from all entries for the week. The winning students each receive a MacBook laptop computer, and each student's school receives a $5,000 cash award.
“With schools scrambling to do more with less, there isn't much room in the budget for new programs and equipment or special activities,” Hy-Vee spokeswoman Ruth Comer told SN. “The Smiles for Education cash awards provide funds for some of these extras that schools would otherwise do without.”
Smiles for Education is promoted in weekly Hy-Vee print ads, TV spots, on Hy-Vee.com, through in-store signage and in area schools.
Schools can use the cash awards for programs, materials, building improvements, special events or any other purpose that will enhance the learning environment for students.
Sara Lee is a sponsor this year. The in-store materials are part of a Sara Lee display, and Sara Lee products are featured on the Smiles for Education page in the ad.
Along with points-based school fund-raising programs, gift card promotions are another way for students to earn money for their schools.
“Club Cash” from Lowes Food Stores, Winston-Salem, N.C., provides a 6% discount to any group that purchases $500 or more worth of Lowes gift cards. Nonprofits can then resell the cards at face value and use the profits to buy merchandise for their schools.
“People are happy to buy gift cards knowing that the dollars they spend on groceries will help support their school or organization,” Lowes writes in promotional materials.
The weak economy makes such cause-marketing programs a smart business move, said Don Stuart of Cannondale Associates, a Wilton, Conn., sales and marketing firm.
“In these difficult economic times, the needs of nonprofits remain the same, but funding is down,” he said.
Lending a helping hand can build shopper loyalty, Stuart added. “It positions retailers as part of a worthy cause,” he said.
The timing is critical, as the back-to-school season is one of the biggest retail seasons, and is typically a time when parents with school-age children form shopping habits, said Stuart.