GADSDEN, Ala. -- Gregerson's Food here will launch a frequent-shopper club membership drive this week to coincide with the opening of its ninth store Thursday in Rainbow City, Ala.
"We are going to use the opening as an opportunity to invite new customers to become members of the program," said Peter J. Gregerson Jr., president. He said special club prices will be extended to all shoppers, including nonmembers, for a two-week period.
The effort represents a departure from the "Club Greg" program, which for three years has offered special prices to cardholders only.
"It's an experiment to see if we can get some new people in" to sign up for the program, he said.
Currently, 76% of transactions and 82% of sales at Gregerson's existing stores are card-based purchases. At one store, Club Greg card-based sales accounted for more than 90% of total sales, he noted.
While acknowledging that the program has maintained a strong membership base, Gregerson said there is always room for improvement.
"Once you get a member they are generally going to stay with you as long as you treat them right. But one of the problems that a lot of frequent-shopper programs seem to have is getting new people to sign up," he said.
Gregerson said the company's frequent-shopper program has staged several promotions including the most recent "Summer of '96" promotion in which giveaways included a Ford Mustang convertible, jet skis and other summer recreational gear. Simultaneously, Club Greg members were issued gift certificates for discounts based on spending levels.
Shoppers received certificates for 5%, 10% and 20% off a grocery order and the retailer tracked a 93% redemption rate on those certificates, he said.
An upcoming turkey promotion rewards shopper spending with a free bird, along with a $20-off certificate good at a local jewelry store and $650 off a new car at a local dealership for those customers meeting or exceeding designated spending levels.
Gregerson told SN that shopper loyalty generated by the Club Greg program helped to stem defection this summer when two stores faced Wal-Mart Supercenter openings in their markets.
Stores in Oxford, Ala., and Oneonta, Ala., were prepared to surrender significant business to Wal-Mart, according to projected sales loss figures provided by Gregerson's wholesaler based on consumer research. However, the stores fared better than expected.
"They told us we would lose 25% of our business with the opening of those two stores," Gregerson said. "Fortunately, we lost only 15% in one store and 17% in the other, initially. Now [sales] are coming back up and we attribute that to the card program."