Supermarkets Take Aim at ever-younger Consumers
(Richmond Times-Dispatch; 05/06/98)
You may be aware that supermarkets target you for business, using strategies
like frequent shopper clubs, in-store promotions and free samples, as well as
kiosks that offer coupons and recipes in exchange for vital consumer
What you might not know is your supermarket may be going after a much
younger and less discriminating consumer: your child.
According to a new report by FIND/SVP, of New York City, sales of kids'
foods are expected to rise in 1998 to $10 billion. The U.S. Census estimates
there are about 38 million children in the 5-to-15 age bracket.
And they not only have substantial disposable income of their own, but they
have a major influence on their families' expenditures as well. According to
the NPD Group, a research company based in Rosemont, Ill., adults in households
with children eat more chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, presweetened
cereal and peanut butter and jelly than adults in houses without little eaters.
Many stores are going directly after kids' business by forming kids' clubs
similar to the preferred shopper clubs for adults. Through the club, the kids
may receive their own club card, a newsletter, birthday cards and even free
gifts both within and outside of the store. One chain, IGA Fleming, has a
program called IGA Hometown Kids, whose operators have sponsored activities for
club members ranging from free bowling outings to hot-air balloon rides. Other
stores have specially designated kids' days at the store, which include kid-
friendly food and entertainment.
Some stores have gone as far as to establish child-care centers. Not only
does this make shopping easier for parents, but since young children begin
associating the supermarket with fun and games, they may actually want to
accompany mom or dad on their outings as they get older.
On a smaller scale, more stores are offering amenities such as miniature
supermarket carts and cookie clubs that entitle children to a free treat every
week. They also are turning to "education," with in-store nutritional tours and
Stores also foster good will among parents and their children by donating
valuable items such as computers to local schools, depending on the number of
receipts shoppers collect.
All of these programs have their advantages, but parents should keep a
thought in mind: Cookies and free gifts shouldn't divert shoppers - young or
old - from the very real task of carefully checking prices, evaluating the
foods that end up in shopping carts for value and nutrition, and expecting to
be treated well in all respects at the place where we shop.
Philip Lempert, editor of the Lempert Report newsletter, analyzes market and