ATLANTA -- Free food samples, including many Center Store items, and health screenings were part of Kroger Co.'s Senior Expo.
An estimated 15,000 seniors attended the show, which the retailer's division here held Halloween weekend at the Georgia International Convention Center. There was a $3 admission charge.
Officials at Cincinnati-based Kroger did not return phone calls seeking comment about the Senior Expo, but Fred Zimmerman, president of Zimmerman Publishing Co., the Columbus, Ohio, firm that runs the show, said the Senior Expo has helped Kroger maintain its dominance of the senior citizen market.
"The Atlanta Kroger division has been thrilled with the response," Zimmerman said.
"That [senior-citizen] demographic group is becoming more important. We're finding that the senior citizens are coming in and buying a lot of groceries. They have a lot of disposable income," he said.
ZPC has sponsored Senior Expos for nine years. This is the fourth year Kroger Atlanta has participated. Because of a scheduling conflict, this year's show was moved from the Cobb Galleria Center convention hall to the International Convention Center. Zimmerman said 14 Expos will be held this year, with seven Kroger Marketing Areas participating, including Kroger's Phoenix, Ariz.-based Fry's division.
Other participants include Randalls Food Markets stores in the Austin, Texas, area; biggs Hyper Shoppes in Cincinnati; two divisions of the Youngstown, Ohio-based Phar-Mor drug store chain; CVS drug stores; and United Healthcare.
Zimmerman said ZPC expects to hold Senior Expos in 20 to 25 markets next year. This year, Kroger's Raleigh, N.C., KMA held its first shows and he is in talks with the Roanoke, Va., division and several others he declined to name.
"Most of the retailers do the Expo to maintain market share or increase market share within that demographic," Zimmerman said. "We have been successful and the markets we have been in for a long time have completely turned around market share of the ownership of the senior market to the chain that does the Senior Expo."
Zimmerman said vendors of the supermarkets are solicited for booth space, including many Center Store product manufacturers. Participants in the Atlanta show included Nabisco, Coca-Cola, Ensure and Kimberly-Clark's Depends.
"Our Atlanta show is pretty unique," said Dean Forcucci, exhibits manager at ZPC's Hospitality Marketing Sales division here.
"We had 240 booths, up from 220 last year, which included travel agencies, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, home improvement companies, hospitals, vacuum cleaner companies and a funeral home," he said.
The Senior Expos attract consumers by offering health screenings sponsored by pharmaceutical firms such as Merck and Novartis, and with entertainment geared to the older set, Zimmerman said. The Ink Spots highlighted the entertainment roster at the Atlanta show, while Shirley Jones, Julius LaRosa and entertainers from the Lawrence Welk show have starred at venues in other cities.
To generate interest in its show, Kroger Atlanta distributed show guides in its stores, and teamed up with the local American Association of Retired Persons office for a direct-mail campaign. Kroger also sponsored shuttle buses from several of its stores, as well as from the College Park MARTA subway station to bring seniors to the show.