Giant Eagle Looks to Leverage Power of fuelperks!, foodperks!

PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Giant Eagle is looking to better leverage its popular fuelperks! gasoline discount program with its foodperks! food discount program, according to a report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While the newer foodperks! program has built on fuelperks! success, helping to boost gasoline sales at the supermarket operators' GetGo convenience stores -- gallons sold have increased almost 20 percent after the foodperks! launch last year -- customers are not taking full advantage of the food program, Lisa Henriksen, vice president of marketing for Giant Eagle, told the newspaper.

Loyalty card holders earn a 1 percent discount on Giant Eagle purchases for every 10 gallons of gas bought at a GetGo station. Customers may use up to 20 percent in discounts on a maximum of $300 in purchases on a single trip. Currently, discount users are averaging about 5 percent in foodperks! savings on a shopping basket of about $100, for a savings of $5, the newspaper reported.

The supermarket operator's marketing team believes a 20-percent discount, added to offers such as double coupons and gas discounts, makes the chain competitive with mass merchants and discounters.

Jim Hertel, senior vice president of consulting firm Willard Bishop in Barrington, Ill., told the newspaper the typical basket of groceries at a Walmart Supercenter is generally about 15 percent lower than that at a traditional supermarket.

To get to the $300 maximum limit allowed by the foodperks! program, Giant Eagle officials said customers might have to wait to do a really big stock-up trip. "They would have to work to get there," Henriksen told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Hertel pointed to data showing the average grocery basket is about $25 to $30. A really big shopping trip might reach the $100 range.

And $300? "We don't really consider that to be an achievable kind of basket on a regular basis," he told the newspaper. To get there, customers would likely have to delay trips and then stock up on items that don't go bad quickly such as paper goods, detergents and canned goods.

At this point, the grocer is tinkering with its message and trying to educate customers on how to maximize food discounts. The company changed the program's name from Giant Eagle foodperks! to GetGo foodperks!, tying the image more closely to the convenience stores. It also has rolled out an ad campaign with the tagline, "Why go anywhere else?"
If customer feedback supports it, the company eventually plans to roll out the program to the rest of its stores, including those in the Cleveland area, the newspaper reported.
The fuelperks! program allows loyalty card holders to earn a 10-cent-per-gallon discount for every $50 spent at Giant Eagle and use them for a fuel purchase of up to 30 gallons on a single trip.

People seem to push that deal to the max, driving their cars until the tanks are almost dry and carrying cans along so they can squeeze every bit of value out, the newspaper reported.

Peter Lynch, president, CEO and chairman of Winn-Dixie Stores, told analysts on a February conference call to discuss earnings, the fuelperks! program should help the chain win sales from people pressured by the economic downturn. "Gas drives behavior in a big, big way," he said.

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