ORLANDO, Fla. -- IGA is helping its licensed retailers build a bridge to the next generation of food shoppers with a new loyalty club for kids.
Officials from Chicago-based IGA announced the "IGA Hometown Kids" program here at its annual Merchandising, Advertising and Promotions conference. The club name is a twist on IGA's 10-year-old "Hometown Proud" slogan.
"With the IGA Hometown Kids program, we will have activities and events that reach children," said Mark Harsha, Fleming Co.'s director of IGA retail advertising. "And we will reach the children's parents and grandparents as well.
"This is a way for a store, or a group of stores, to distinguish itself from the competition," Harsha added. "Our goal is to 'wow' consumers."
Harsha said the program will consist of event marketing and promotions as well as educational activities. The program is expected to be in full swing by the summer of 1998, with a national IGA "KidsFest" supported by point-of-sale and broadcast advertising. Harsha said IGA's "Red Oval Partners," a group of about 80 manufacturers, will be involved in the kids club, promoting their brands.
Although the program is coming from the top levels of IGA, Harsha said individual retailers will have the flexibility to create their own programs.
"You can do whatever you dream up," he told attendees.
To highlight the program, each store will be encouraged to appoint a kids club liaison -- an employee who will wear a special vest and take responsibility for greeting children in the store.
IGA also offers an idea tip sheet to help retailers tap into kids' interests. IGA will also encourage its retailers' to link their Internet home pages to a kids club home page, which will contain puzzles, jokes and games and also offer ways for kids to win prizes.
To help generate awareness in stores, IGA has developed a point-of-purchase kit, including posters, signs, balloons and other attention grabbers. The materials urge kids to pick up a free membership card, which qualifies them for "all kinds of neat stuff -- free!"
Kids who bring their membership cards into IGA stores will be eligible for free toys, coloring books, activity books, pencils, erasers and stickers -- each with the IGA Hometown Kids logo.
IGA has also set up a toll-free hotline to answer any questions retailers may have about the club.
Harsha said toys and balloons have helped bond children to McDonald's and other fast-food restaurants, starting at a young age. "The first word kids learn is 'no,' " Harsha said. "The second word they learn is 'McDonald's.' McDonald's didn't become the world's largest restaurant chain by being known for the best food."