As another spring comes to an end, grocers are scrambling to prepare for their upcoming Center Store summer promotions.
This summer season, supermarket managers will be focusing on getting in touch with their local communities through promotions, cross merchandising various items within the Center Store to create meal solutions, partnering more closely with manufacturers and even hosting contests to keep promotions lively and creative, they told SN.
According to the Washington-based Food Marketing Institute's recently released report, "New Directions in Advertising: Marketing the Retail Store as a Brand," a significant portion of grocers -- 42.6% -- use in-store radio as a medium for broadcasting special promotions.
Todd Hultquist, spokes-man for FMI, said one of the most significant promotional trends taking place among grocers recently is a strong connection with their local communities. Instead of running nationwide promotions many supermarket chains are encouraging individual stores to find unique ways to create displays and promotions that are relevant to their local market.
Some stores will be centering their summer promotions around local baseball teams, musical groups and other organizations that draw large crowds of people to their area during the summer months, said Hultquist.
"Seasonal promotions in general are becoming much more reflective of the immediate community rather than a chain's customer demographics overall," he said.
Cross merchandising is another tactic practiced by many grocers throughout the year, but particularly during the summer, said Hultquist. "We see a lot of cross-merchandised summer promotional displays that include all of the elements of a meal or a picnic basket like coolers of hot dogs, buns, snacks, chips and pop all in one display," he said.
Penn Traffic, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based grocery company that owns and operates over 200 supermarkets, has plans to include cross merchandising as part of its 2002 summer promotions. Along with national brands, stores will also strongly promote corporate brands.
"We're going to focus heavily this summer on corporate-brand products for our summer pushes, involving a multiplicity of categories within our corporate brands, like carbonated beverages, salty snacks, condiments and all of the items associated with outdoor living, pool and patio," said Les Knox, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Penn Traffic.
Dahl's Food Markets, Des Moines, Iowa, leaves promotional planning to its individual store managers. However, one tactic that all managers have inherently turned to each year is the cross merchandising of items like paper plates, napkins, picnic or barbecue food items, and beverages such as beer or wine.
"We don't dictate summer promotions to our stores because we feel that each store manager has a better handle on their own market and what works best with their consumers," said Ross Nixon, vice president of merchandising.
"Even though our stores may only be a few miles apart, one manager might have a more successful promotion by putting wine into the mix, while the next nearest store might do better with beer."
In the beverage category, Penn Traffic's stores will promote its own corporate soda brands directly beside national brands such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola, said Knox. A number of bottled water displays will also be scattered throughout stores to encourage spontaneous purchases from shoppers.
"Many of the traditional bottled waters and flavored waters lend themselves well to tie-ins throughout the store like in the deli section where shoppers can buy fried chicken, potato salad and bottled water to create a complete meal," he said. "We'll be pushing a lot of 12- and 24-packs of bottled water to promote ourselves against the Wal-Marts and club stores of the world."
To organize seasonal promotions, Penn Traffic begins working with store managers during the winter, laying out various promotions.
This summer, the stores will also be running promotions with frozen food novelty items and bulk candy, rotating the array of candies every 30 days to keep shoppers interested, Knox told SN.
Grocers are also realizing just how much new products drive summer promotions. Consequently, retailers are working more closely with manufacturers to create the most innovative and enticing promotions possible.
Kroger, H.E. Butt Grocery, Publix, Piggly Wiggly, Albertson's, Stop & Shop and IGA stores will all be working in conjunction with Coca-Cola to promote a variety of soft drinks this summer, including Coca-Cola Classic, Sprite, Nestea COOL, Diet Coke and Diet Coke with Lemon.
Coca-Cola's summer promotions will include discounts on music CDs and concert tickets and coupon giveaways good toward the purchase of popular summer-branded products from Kraft, Reynolds and Chinet, to name a few.
Other giveaways include RocketCash, which can be used to purchase online games, music and video content and COOL cash awards that can be used for purchasing movie and theme park admissions.
Fresh Encounter, the 30-store grocery chain based in Findlay, Ohio, plans to engage in a number of Center Store summer promotions similar to the ones run last summer. According to Susan Leeds, director of advertising, the chain's typical summer promotions range from displays created from cross-merchandising strategies to simple endcap setups where the prices of various items are lowered drastically to entice shoppers to make a spontaneous purchase. And, like many supermarket chains, Fresh Encounter has also latched onto the concept of holding contests to promote creativity.
"Last year, we did a four-week endcap promotion of 32-ounce Gatorade with a special retail of 99 cents," said Leeds. "This was also a store manager contest, which kept the displays filled and interesting." To further promote the sports drink's sale, the grocer featured the Gatorade beverages in its weekly fliers for the duration of the monthlong promotion.
According to Leeds, Fresh Encounter frequently runs store manager contests to spice up what might be ordinary and mundane promotions. Most often, each store is encouraged to come up with endcap and other displays that are neat, orderly and include a multitude of complementary products from various Center Store aisles. Winning stores and store managers frequently receive cash awards, she said.
Penn Traffic has also taken to hosting contests as a means of encouraging creative and enticing summer promotions. "Most of our contests are related to sales and display presentations," said Knox. "Prizes for winning managers range from cash to Caribbean cruises, and we've even given away a PT Cruiser for a multiseasonal contest."
To promote beverages, Fresh Encounter chose to promote last summer's newly launched soft drink Mountain Dew Code Red by setting up summer displays in its stores to coincide with a Mountain Dew Code Red-sponsored, three-on-three Gus Macker shootout that was held in store parking lots.
The store ran special ROP ads and had a radio remote to cover the event. Shoppers could also shoot a basket to win a free bottle of Code Red.
This year promises to bring about yet another group of new products. Fresh Encounter is eagerly awaiting the launch of Coca-Cola's new vanilla-flavored soft drink, while Dahl's expects its store managers to incorporate the new Heinz colored condiments for kids, now available in pink, orange and teal.