ENCINO, Calif. -- Gelson's Markets here has found that getting management and store-level personnel involved in the Food For All effort is a key to boosting customer contributions, Bill Roulette, senior vice president, operations, told SN.
Emphasizing the fact half the money raised goes to local charities is another big selling point for employees and customers, he added.
Gelson's made the highest dollar contribution per store to Food For All during 2000 and 2001, Roulette said, raising $57,000 each year -- an average of just over $3,500 per store in 2000, when the chain had 16 units, and more than $3,100 per store in the Sept. 11-affected year of 2001, when Gelson's operated 18 locations.
Roulette said he attributes the strong results not only to the fact Gelson's stores operate exclusively in middle- to high-income areas but also to the fact the company encourages its people to commit themselves to the program. "The income level of our customers probably gets us more $5 contributions than $1 or $3 contributions," he pointed out, "but income levels mean nothing if you don't enthusiastically promote the Food For All program internally."
To make sure employees understand what the program is all about, Gelson's posts materials explaining how Food For All works in the employee lounges at its stores, he said.
During the year-end promotional period, Gelson's incentivizes employees by offering to throw a pizza party for the store that raises the most money on a percentage basis.
Some stores add their own incentives, he added. For example, the store director at the Gelson's in Newport Beach "offered an hour off with pay once a week to the checker who encouraged the most donations," Roulette said. The Newport Beach store raised approximately $8,600 during the year-end program.
Although Gelson's makes Food For All scan cards available at all registers year-round, it puts a greater emphasis on the program between November and January by putting scan tabs on the checkstand tables where shoppers write their checks "so they can't miss the information," Roulette said.
Once the seasonal program ends, Roulette personally delivers checks to various local charities, "and that's very gratifying to me because I get to see exactly how the money enables people to create better independent lives. And I invite our supervisors to go with me to get a firsthand look at the charities and the people who will benefit from the funds so they can go back to their stores and explain how gratifying it all is."
Roulette said he views Food For All as "an opportunity to help give something back to the communities that support us and to help those who are less fortunate. This is an in-house effort -- it's the industry's own giving something back to the local community and doing their part to help those in need and to alleviate hunger and help build a hunger-free world. "Food For All helps people create an independent life. And it helps those on the brink -- people who are losing their homes -- by giving them a cushion or providing help for them to find jobs or job training."
Food For All Viewpoint: Gelson's
The continuing success of the Food For All program in Gelson's Markets in Southern California proves again that size does not matter. In a market saturated with imposing retailer giants, this small, independent, 17-store chain has year after year reigned supreme as having the highest contribution per store than any other retailer in the nation in the Holiday Food For All program.
This feat is amazing enough on its own merit, but coupled with the fact that Gelson's Markets also participates in the Year-Round Food For All campaign and has successfully seen the program increase in donation contributions every year, truly marks Gelson's as an exemplary example of what can be done given the encouragement of corporate management and supplemented with store-operation enthusiasm.
Gelson's began participating in the holiday campaign the first year of its inception in 1987 and has raised more than $372,000 since that time. It followed suit in 1992 joining the year-round program, raising more than $238,000 since that time, for a combined total of $610,000. Last year alone, Gelson's stores raised more than $114,000 between the two point-of-purchase programs, an astounding accomplishment with only 17 stores.
Gelson's has also used the Food For All programs to the fullest extent of the campaign, taking advantage of the marketing opportunities the program provides and extending the program to enhance its local community efforts. As an example, a grant was provided to Transition House in Santa Barbara last year, to support job-training efforts for low-income or unemployed residents. Upon presenting the check directly to the agency and receiving a tour of the facilities, a partnership was developed between the two organizations, with Gelson's providing occupational opportunities for individuals involved in the agencies' programs. For Gelson's, the Food For All program is more than a fund-raising program; it is a full-circle, self-help solution that benefits Gelson's and the communities they serve.
All of these accomplishments and the sincere desire to really make a difference in their communities have created a culture within Gelson's, its customers and its employees, not only to support the Food For All campaigns, but to exceed beyond all expectations.