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Winn-Dixie expands Fuelperks! program

BY Michael Johnsen

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Winn-Dixie on Thursday announced it is expanding Fuelperks! to include hundreds of bonus items each week. Each bonus Fuelperks! item purchased is worth 5 cents to 50 cents off every gallon of gas, and purchasing multiple bonus Fuelperks! items can speed up gas savings, Winn-Dixie stated.

“Our goal is to make the lives of our guests a little more simple — and this is exactly what Fuelperks! does," stated Mary Kellmanson, marketing group VP for Winn-Dixie. “The more bonus items you purchase, the more you save. With fuelperks! you may never have to pay for gas again.”


To date, Winn-Dixie customers have saved more than $48 million on gas with Fuelperks!, Winn-Dixie said.

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Put aside your social media phobias

BY Dave Wendland

In its early days, social media meant "connecting with people." That’s still what it’s mostly about. But obviously, we’ve come a long way from those now prehistoric list-servs where we simply posted messages back-and-forth with people of similar interests and pursuits. It’s still about connecting. But now organizations use it for targeted marketing purposes, where once social media was considered the protected domain of the individual. Consumers seem to accept that it has become just another means by which brands are going to try to earn their loyalty. But these consumers have remained firm about one thing when responding to brand marketers using social media: play by our rules, not yours. Brands, that means you have to carry on a respectful, timely, two-way conversation.

This paradigm shift is hard for a lot of brands to accept. Are you ready?

Companies sometimes shy away from social media because they either believe their customers are not using it or they are afraid of losing control. Tip: your customers and competitors are engaged. Even more of your future customers and competitors will be.

If that thought fills you with fear, take heart. People talking about your brand online is a good thing. What they say benefits you, even in the rare instance when it is negative. You read that right – a negative remark on Twitter or Facebook about your brand presents a golden opportunity to engage in some “new marketing.” If someone complains, you get to respond directly – in front of an audience of thousands if not millions. You get to solve the problem, and you get to re-establish your brand in a positive light, with everyone watching.

If you decide not to engage with your consumers on social media, you may do so at your own peril. If you’re not involved, you may already have lost control. Blogs, Facebook pages, and community sites can be set up by people outside your company. Your best strategy is to set up a robust social media presence that people will want to follow instead of random fan pages that others have set up. Without an official page, your current and potential customers have no choice but to follow a “renegade” page.

Still undecided? Here are four benefits of getting involved in social media and riding the wave of its evolution:


  1. Real customer testimonials gained through social media will outperform anything marketers can develop.
  2. Social media unites and connects like-minded individuals. These people become your (unpaid!) brand ambassadors.
  3. The authenticity of a customer’s voice breaks through the clutter of preplanned (read: canned) marketing messages.
  4. You’ll develop one-to-one relationships with your customers.

So, what are you doing about it today? What are you doing to get into or expand in social media? What successes have you seen? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

 


Dave Wendland is VP and co-owner of Hamacher Resource Group, a retail healthcare consultancy located near Milwaukee, Wis. He directs business development, product innovation and marketing communications activities for the company and has been instrumental in positioning HRG among the industry’s foremost thought leaders. You may contact him at (414) 431-5301 or learn more at Hamacher.com.

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Sears Holdings posts $3.1 billion loss for 2011

BY Alaric DeArment

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — "Integrated retail" was the dominant theme as executives discussed Kmart operator Sears Holdings’ plans to restore confidence in the company after a fourth quarter 2011 that even the company’s chief executive called "unacceptable" during an earnings call Thursday.

"Our fourth-quarter earnings were unacceptable," president and CEO Lou D’Ambrosio told investors and analysts. "We know that and are taking immediate actions to address it." D’Ambrosio said the actions would include cost reductions to improve financial performance, actions to improve productivity and hiring new talent to bolster the company’s merchandising and leadership teams. The cost reductions include plans, also announced Thursday, to sell 11 Sears stores to General Growth Properties for $270 million; the stores will continue operating as Sears stores into next year, with plans to announce final closing dates later this year.

The company also will separate its Sears Hometown and Outlet businesses, as well as some hardware stores, through a proposed rights offering, which it expects to raise $400 million to $500 million. Other plans include the introduction of a new casual clothing line at Kmart directed at men ages 25 years to 35 years, announced by new chief merchant and president for the Kmart and Sears formats Ron Boire. "I joined Sears because I felt the company had enormous, untapped potential," Boire said during the call.

In addition, D’Ambrosio hinted at greater use of technology in stores in order to create a more interactive customer experience as part of the company’s integrated retail plans. "We believe the retailers who best use technology to integrate the customer experience across all channels will be the ones who win," he said.

The call was a rarity for the company, which despite its iconic status in American culture, continued presence as a major retailer and ownership of several still-popular consumer product brands has experienced a steep decline as more successful competitors like Target and Walmart have expanded. "We’re prepared to take whatever steps are necessary, from cost reductions and operational improvements to active portfolio management, to deliver an acceleration of our strategic initiatives to restore our company to greatness and deliver attractive returns to our shareholders," D’Ambrosio said.

Kmart comps declined 2.7% for the quarter and 1.4% for the year, with sales of $4.84 billion for the quarter and $11.8 billion for the year, compared with $4.9 billion for fourth quarter 2010 and $11.75 billion for fiscal 2010. Sears Holdings as a whole reported sales of $12.48 billion in fourth quarter 2011 and $41.56 billion in fiscal 2011, compared with $13 billion in fourth quarter 2010 and $42.6 billion in fiscal 2010. The company recorded a net loss of $2.4 billion for the quarter and $3.1 billion for fiscal 2011, compared with a profit of $374 million for fourth quarter 2010 and $122 million for fiscal 2010. The company operated 1,305 Kmart stores, compared with 1,307 last year.

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