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Tough times impact Stater Bros.’ Q1

BY Allison Cerra

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Customers facing economic challenges caused a decline in Stater Bros.’ first-quarter sales, the Southern California supermarket chain said Wednesday.

For the quarter ended Dec. 26, Stater Bros. experienced a 2.3% decline in supermarket sales, as did same-store sales — which dropped to $21.3 million — for the period. The chain said that its customers "continue to face tough economic challenges as our economy continues to have a negative effect on their family budgets."

Net income for the quarter dropped 80% to $1.3 million, compared with first quarter 2010. Stater Bros. noted that the net income of first quarter 2010 included an after-tax gain of $4.7 million from the company’s dairy asset sale.

On the upside, the company did report that its overall debt load was reduced, which in turn will reduce the company’s interest expense.

Commenting on the results, Stater Bros. chairman, president and CEO, Jack Brown, said that the company’s emphasis "is to retain customers by providing value, so [they can] get the most out of their shopping dollars, while providing them with a friendly and satisfying experience on each and every one of their visits to our supermarkets."

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Fresh & Easy goes gourmet

BY Allison Cerra

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — One month after announcing the expansion of its Eatwell line to meet customers’ demand for affordable and nutritious meal options, Fresh & Easy has rolled out its Gourmet line.

Created by Fresh & Easy’s team of chefs, Gourmet gives customers a fine-dining experience with all the comforts of home. Additionally, Fresh & Easy created an online menu of the new items and posted photos of the new range on the company’s Flickr photostream.

John Burry, Fresh & Easy’s chief commercial officer, said, “Instead of spending $20 a plate at a restaurant, customers can pop in to Fresh & Easy for delicious and affordable meals they can enjoy in the comfort of their homes."

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Real rewards, everyday value rank highest among loyalty card users

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — With many businesses implementing customer reward programs to drive sales, it seems that the ones that promise everyday value and rewards fare better than their counterparts, according to new research.

The Recommendation Index, conducted by marketing agency Zocalo Group and M/A/R/C Research, analyzed 1,000 reward program participants, who were asked about brands they most often positively and negatively recommended, and the attributes they used to make their recommendations.

The research found that words associated with the most favorable aspects of reward programs — "actual rewards," "cash back," "free" and "discounts" — led to positive recommendations. One of the biggest recommendation drivers were programs that rewarded consumers for everyday purchases.

Another conclusion reached was that the most positively recommended rewards programs by consumers were those in the retail space — the top 10 recommended reward loyalty programs were Rite Aid, which captured the No. 1 spot, with CVS coming in at No. 4. Rounding out the index was Kroger (No. 10).

"The Recommendation Index makes clear what drives discussion, recommendations and criticisms in the reward card market," said Paul Rand, Zocalo Group president and CEO. "Marketers spend so much in this area that gaining insight into what really makes a program highly recommended can offer a huge advantage. Consumers are very clear about what they value — and recommend.

"What this tells marketers of reward programs is that it becomes essential to find ways to actively build more everyday reward programs," Rand concluded.

More information about the Recommendation Index can be found here.

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