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Wedding bells will soon ring at Publix Super Markets when the chain reaches out to newlyweds with elaborate displays that marry ideas for the big day and beyond, including cakes, flowers and easy recipes for their home life together. We want shoppers to know that we're there for every facet of their lives, Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous told SN. What better time to show them that than when they're

Wedding bells will soon ring at Publix Super Markets when the chain reaches out to newlyweds with elaborate displays that marry ideas for the big day and beyond, including cakes, flowers and easy recipes for their home life together.

“We want shoppers to know that we're there for every facet of their lives,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous told SN. “What better time to show them that than when they're starting out together as a married couple.”

It's all part of “Recipes for a New Life Together,” a Campbell Soup Co. promotion and sweepstakes designed to build loyalty among couples who are just beginning to form bonds with certain food stores. Campbell's products anchor all of the displays.

Couples will be encouraged to walk down the aisles of their local Publix store in April when wedding-themed floor and endcap displays are set up around the perimeter and, in some cases, in Center Store.

This year will mark the third time the one-week displays will be featured at Publix. Over the last two years, the displays have included an eye-catching mix of bakery wedding cakes, “bridal shower” balloons, wedding dresses, wine, champagne and stacks of Campbell's products, including cooking soups, Swanson broth and Prego pasta sauce. Recipe cards provide easy meal ideas involving the Campbell's items.

“This gives us a great opportunity not only to position ourselves as a wedding destination, but also to raise awareness of all the products and services we offer,” Brous said.

The promotion is intended to add excitement and theater to the store by combining Center Store with the chain's award-winning bakery departments and other perimeter departments, said Yvonne Turnbough, Campbell's team leader for Publix.

“We knew Publix's bakery department and perimeter of the store were their strengths,” Turnbough told SN. “We brainstormed on ideas of how to combine Center Store with the perimeter of store.”

While Campbell's creates account-specific promotions with other retailers, this is its first wedding-themed initiative.

Campbell's sales force has rallied around it, taking what could have been a traditional in-store promotion and making it a complete in-store wedding experience by contacting local limo companies, bridal shops, tuxedo rentals and DJs, and including their information on tent cards included in the displays. In some cases, vendor merchandise such as tuxedos and wedding dresses adorn the displays.

“Our sales force truly embraced this program and was incredibly creative in pulling together other wedding-related partners,” said Campbell's senior customer marketing manager Jackie Casto.

Along with the displays, the promotion includes a four-week sweepstakes that awards four grand prizes of $30,000 (a $10,000 Publix gift card and a $20,000 Visa gift card). Additionally, four first-prize winners receive cookware sets valued at $500 each and 120 second-place winners get $100 Publix gift cards.

More than 50,000 people entered the sweepstakes in the first year, and more than 70,000 last year.

Brous attributes the strong response to the fact that no purchase is necessary and anyone can enter.

“The interesting part of that is there's no criteria; they don't have to be planning a wedding,” she said.

“Recipes for a New Life Together” comes at a time when manufacturers and retailers are using other forms of “retailtainment” to make Center Store more exciting, engaging and fun.

In 2006, cookie and cracker sales increased at three Buehler Food Markets units that participated in a Kraft Foods pilot that transformed the cookie/cracker section into a near replica of a kitchen — complete with tables, shelving and cookware. Merchandise was displayed in kitchen-style cabinets surrounded by items typically seen in a home kitchen, including hanging pots and pans, utensils and cookie jars.

The goal was to make an emotional connection with consumers, and remind them of the Nabisco heritage and the role such brands as Chips Ahoy!, Oreo and Ritz have played in their lives.

Sales during the test increased for not only Nabisco products, but for the entire cookie/cracker category.

Manufacturers and retailers have put a unique spin on the center of the store in other ways. Last year, Cincinnati-based Kroger highlighted Ocean Spray cranberry juice by placing freestanding cranberry bogs in front of its stores.

The 6-by-9-foot mini-bogs contained about 6 inches of water, a layer of cranberries and a backdrop that bore an image of a vast cranberry bog, the Ocean Spray logo and the words “Straight from the Bog!”

Ocean Spray hired actors who posed as cranberry growers. The actors distributed coupons good for 55 cents off the purchase of 64-ounce bottles of Ocean Spray's 100% juice.

Such efforts are helping Center Store make a sales comeback, according to Information Resources Inc.

After several years of sagging sales, dollar sales of key Center Store categories grew 3.1% in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 12, 2007, across food, drug and mass channels, including Wal-Mart, according to IRI.

Though the share gain may be small, it means a lot, since it follows a decade of Center Store share losses to supercenters, club stores and drug stores.

IRI sees retailers revitalizing the department in several ways, with new health-and-wellness programs that incorporate Center Store into storewide initiatives.

New forms of retailtainment are helping as well, IRI said.

Ted Taft, managing director, Meridian Consulting Group, Westport, Conn., agreed, saying elaborate displays can be key in getting people to walk down a Center Store aisle.

“The average market basket at a supermarket is $30, so if you can get someone to travel down one more aisle and pick up another $3 sale, you can increase sales and profits by 10%,” said Taft. “Supermarkets will lose out if all a customer does is shop the meat, dairy and seafood departments.”

Taft said the Publix promotion is intriguing because it creates an occasion based around a lifestyle.

While in-store theater is common on the perimeter, retailers need to do more in the rest of the store.

“The perimeter departments have typically added excitement, but Center Store has been slower to realize such opportunities,” Taft said.

Like Publix, other retailers are supporting occasion-based promotions in-store. During the holidays, top-performing Roundy's stores — including those under the Copps and Rainbow banners — sampled Nestlé Toll House Sugar Cookie Dough and Nestlé Miniatures confections.

To create an in-store baking experience, demonstrators wore Nestlé aprons and baked Toll House cookies. At each sampling location a cookie-decorating station was created, complete with icing and sprinkles.

While store visitors waited for their fresh-baked cookies, demonstrators talked about the homemade taste and convenience of the cookies.

The demos included a recipe/coupon booklet featuring several holiday recipes utilizing an array of Nestlé products.

Likewise, Nestlé partnered with H.E. Butt Grocery Co. for a Halloween-themed sampling event last year that enabled children to make a Halloween mask.

During these events consumers were able to sample an array of new Nestlé products, including Hot Pockets brand Calzone, Nestlé Chocolatier Dark Morsels, Nestlé Crunch Crisp candy bars and Juicy Juice Harvest Surprise.

Consumers could also get two free bags of Nestlé fun-size candy bars for Halloween when they purchased $20 or more in participating Nestlé products, including: Nestlé Juicy Juice, Nestlé Toll House Morsels, Nestlé Coffee-mate, Nestlé Carnation Evaporated Milk and Stouffer's Entrees.

Nestlé designed the event to position the Toll House brand as an opportunity to bond over baking, and create memories with children.

“We want to create an experience that brings families together,” said Mark Leavens, Nestlé promotions and event marketing manager.

These and other Nestlé events help retailers differentiate their stores from the competition, said Leavens.

“What we hear when we meet with retailers is that they need a reason for people to come to their stores,” Leavens said. “We're helping them do that.”

TAGS: Marketing