AKRON, Ohio -- The Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Co. here, owner and operator of Acme and Acme Supercenter Stores, has launched a bakery club for kids that's not "just a cookie club," said an official.
Launched this month, the Bakery Buddy Club attracted 300 registrants the first week, said Sue Guthier, director of consumer affairs for the 19-unit chain.
The retailer aims to build customer loyalty with the program and also use it to introduce new products and promote items in the bakery, Guthier said.
"When we decided to do something similar in the bakery, we didn't make it a traditional cookie club, because we didn't want it to be limited to cookies," Guthier said.
The idea for the club was spurred by the success of a kids' fruit club that had its debut last year, Guthier said. That one, called Fun with Fruit Kids' Club, has been so successful that it has 3,500 children registered in Acme produce departments.
The Bakery Buddy Club member receives a card with 27 squares on it. One square is punched each time the child picks up his free bakery item. In this first series, the free item on each visit is a cookie, but the card includes a bonus square for a cake at a reduced price.
"What makes this different from other kids' clubs is that there's a bonus square in the middle of the card," Guthier said. "This first series' bonus square offers $2.00 off on a birthday cake of the child's choice."
The bonus square, in this case, is punched on the child's birthday. But in future card series, it will be in the middle of the sequence and could be good for a cupcake, a bagel, or a large, old-fashioned cookie, Guthier said.
"And at some time we might make a card that's good for mini-bagels instead of cookies on each visit to the store," Guthier said.
The club, open to children ages one through 12, offers a quarterly newsletter that's sent to the child. It will contain recipes and facts of interest about baked goods, Guthier said.
To increase customer convenience, Guthier said, the club may make it easier for parents to persuade children to come shopping with them if they get a free treat in the bakery. "Parents love these things that are directed at children, and it's something family-oriented that we can do," she added.
The program has also warmed up customer service in the bakery because associates seem to love it, Guthier said. "We have no trouble at all getting associates to do this. It makes it easy for them to start up communication with customers."
Another benefit is the attention the program brings to the department itself, Guthier added. Colorful posters, fliers and bag stuffers are designed to grab parents' and childrens' attention.
The posters and other printed materials feature a cartoon character, Bakery Buddy, who is decked out in chef's hat and apron and is wielding a mixing spoon. The posters are set on easels in the bakery department, and some stores have posted them in the front window. They say, "Hey Kids! Shopping just got fun! Stop by the bake shop and get your free cookie! See bake shop manager for details."