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Kroger kicks off annual Neighbor-to-Neighbor program

BY Allison Cerra

DALLAS and HOUSTON — Kroger announced that its Southwest division currently is accepting applications for its annual Neighbor-to-Neighbor program.

The donation program allows nonprofits, churches, synagogues and schools (kindergarten through 12th) to earn a percentage of the $1 million the retailer awards annually. How it works: Shoppers can link their Kroger Plus card to a participating group so that each time they shop, a portion of their sale is contributed to the Neighbor-to-Neighbor fund. Community groups are awarded a percentage of the payout that reflects the number of qualifying purchases during the program year. During the 2010-2011 program, more than 2,000 charitable organizations earned funds, Kroger said.

"As the market share leader among grocers in Dallas and Houston, Kroger has the ability to positively impact the neighborhoods we serve through donations, monetary contributions and volunteerism," said Bill Breetz, president of the Kroger Southwest division. "The Neighbor-to-Neighbor program is just one way we make a difference. It’s a great program that not only makes it easy for deserving organizations to raise capital but also allows shoppers to give back effortlessly."

For more information about the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program and how to get involved, click here.

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CVS’ board OKs quarterly dividend

BY Allison Cerra

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Caremark’s board of directors has approved a quarterly dividend of 12.5 cents per share.

The dividend is payable Aug. 2 to holders of record on July 22, the company noted.

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Duane Reade flagship goes digital with Tensator Virtual Assistant

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — The new Duane Reade flagship Wall Street store, visited by Drug Store News in an exclusive tour on Tuesday, represents the first American retailer to employ a next-generation digital signage solution from Lawrence called the Tensator Virtual Assistant, which uses the very latest in holographic imaging and audio-visual technology to create the illusion of a real person.

“Our Virtual Greeter is an essential part of the ‘wow factor’ we have built into our newest store and serves as ambassador of the new Duane Reade customer experience,” said Paul Tiberio, SVP merchandising and chief marketing officer for Duane Reade. “The virtual aspect captures shoppers’ attention from the moment they enter the store — engaging their visual and auditory senses.”

The completely customized Virtual Assistant greets New Yorkers to the newest Duane Reade store, immediately engaging customers and providing guidance on everything store related, including instructions on seeing the “Doctor on Premises,” getting a virtual makeover, hours of operation and checkout information. It even makes suggestions and recommendations on leading-brand foods, drinks, cosmetics, hair and pharmaceutical choices available to customers.

“Duane Reade immediately recognized the incredible benefits the Tensator Virtual Assistant provides to [its] newest location,” commented Bill Vetter, general manager of Lawrence, a Tensator Group Co. “With the multitude of offerings in this premiere store and 24/7 operations, Tensator’s Virtual Assistant provides the industry’s most advanced solution to deliver a consistent store and brand message with customizable content in real time, helping Duane Reade communicate with [its] customers, empowering them to make the most of this incredible New York shopping experience.”

Lawrence also is enhancing the customer journey and increasing revenues within the Duane Reade store by installing an In-Queue Merchandising system that transforms unused space at the checkstand into a valuable retail area, enabling Duane Reade to boost impulse sales among customers waiting to check out by up to 400%.

The units already are in place in the United Kingdom at London Luton and Birmingham Airports. Some of the next-stage developments for the Tensator Virtual Assistant include interactivity, location awareness and virtual help desks.

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