CHICAGO -- Some supermarket chains here are hoping to reap some extra book sales this back-to-school season by capitalizing on a citywide reading initiative.
Dominick's Finer Foods, a division of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., and Jewel-Osco, a division of Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, are getting involved in "One Book, One Chicago," an effort encouraging all Chicagoans to read the same book at the same time during September.
A group of local librarians chose Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "To Kill a Mockingbird," as the featured book because "it is an American classic recognized as a worthwhile piece of literature," according to Jamey Lundblad, director of marketing for Chicago's public library system.
The project kicked off Aug. 25 by doubling the amount of copies already on local libraries' shelves. He said the project culminates during Chicago Book Week, Oct. 8 to 14, when libraries will oversee special book discussions, run a movie marathon featuring the 1962 Academy Award-winning movie and hold a mock trial at the E.M. Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.
Dominick's is supporting the project by merchandising copies of the book on promotional floor displays.
"We wanted to capitalize on the frenzy -- we jumped on it right away," said Richard Prast, book category manager for Dominick's. He said the retailer is timing this program with the back-to-school season.
"Schools may make this [title] mandatory, so we want to make it convenient for the customer," he said. "We want to get the book in every kid's hands."
All 119 Chicago-area Dominick's stores began displaying copies of "To Kill a Mockingbird" last week in their mainline book and magazine aisle, according to Prast. Larger Dominick's units also display an additional floorstand in other areas of the stores. Jewel-Osco also became involved by working out a cross-promotional program with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble and the Chicago Tribune, one of the many media and marketing sponsors of the project.
According to Karen Ramos, spokeswoman for Jewel-Osco, the retailer will give away coupons for $5 off a $25 purchase at Border's bookstores when customers buy any three selected P&G products at Jewel-Osco. She could not specify which P&G products. The special promotion runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 13.
The retailer is also running a "shop-and-share" program for Chicago Book Week, said Ramos. On Oct. 8, 9 and 10, Jewel-Osco will donate a small portion of proceeds from customers who fill out a special certificate. On the certificate, customers write down how much they spent at Jewel-Osco that day, and the retailer donates 5% of the customers' tallies toward the book week, Ramos said.
"A promotion like this gives us an opportunity to support [Chicago Public Library] and to encourage young people to read," she said. "Anything we can do to support programs like this we see as a very worthwhile effort."
All Jewel-Osco stores will merchandise copies of "To Kill a Mockingbird" beginning in October, according to Ramos.
Advertisements highlighting the P&G promotion will run in Jewel-Osco's in-store circulars and the company's preferred mailers.
Lundblad said he was encouraged by the local retail support. "We're excited that the reach of our message [goes across] all of these stores," he said. "We feel like supermarkets are a place that people from all backgrounds interact in."
Prast said Dominick's plans to keep the promotional floor stands on display for three or four weeks. While the story about social and racial tolerance is not a book regularly merchandised by the grocer, he said the chain may continue to stock the title, "depending on the takeaway."
Other cities that have conducted similar citywide literary programs include Seattle, Buffalo, N.Y., and Rochester, N.Y.