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    NONFOODS: Nonfoods Innovation: Service game

    New shopper-centric features add an edge to the traditional GM/HBC mix at retail.

    Supermarket nonfood strategies have expanded beyond the traditional GM and HBC products as grocers seek to better compete against other channels. Smart retailers are increasingly evolving their offerings in these departments from simple assortments to a host of consumer solutions. Here are some examples of leading-edge programs.

    Retailer: Ahold

    Service: Poison control education

    To mark National Poison Prevention Week, which ran from March 18 through March 24, 2007, Ahold-owned Giant Food Stores, LLC, based in Carlisle, Pa., and its Martin's Food Markets and Tops Markets divisions provided free Children's Poison Prevention Activity Books at all of its pharmacy departments. The books offer information to help teach kids about the dangers of poisons.

    "We encourage all parents and caregivers to please use child-resistant packaging and keep all household products and medicines locked up, out of sight, and out of reach of young children," said v.p. pharmacy Leigh Shirley. "Items should be kept in their original containers with the original labels left on. It's also recommended not to take medicine in front of young children."

    Additionally, Tops and Martin's provided shoppers with stickers to go on or near their home phones, featuring the Poison Control Hotline phone number, (800) 222-1222, and worked with Women & Children's Hospital of Buffalo, N.Y. to hold general information sessions.

    Retailer: Newport Avenue Market

    Service: Expanded online housewares selection

    Bend, Ore.-based single-store operator Newport Ave. Market this past summer formed a partnership with Cooking.com, an online retailer of kitchen and housewares, and Gourmet Catalog, a buying group of over 150 independent kitchenware retailers across the country, to dramatically expand the grocer's housewares product selection.

    For the project, Cooking.com built an e-commerce Web site branded with the Newport Ave. Market name, where consumers can shop an assortment of more than 50,000 products online -- much more than any brick-and-mortar store's square footage would allow. Shoppers click the "Shop" button on the home page of the grocer's Web site, and are then directed to the housewares site.

    "The merchandise is really just an extension of what we already are," explains Rudy Dory, Newport's owner. "The positive thing is it allows us access to products that we cannot or do not want to meet the minimums [to stock]. An example might be, a person would like for us to get a certain product, but the minimum purchase direct from the company might be $300. Now, we can offer that product, and not have to worry about inventory."

    Retailer: Kroger

    Service: Cleaner air via ethanol fuel program

    In a drive-time promotion last month, Cincinnati-based Kroger and General Motors jointly promoted the use of E85 ethanol fuel by offering it at a price too cheap to pass up.

    The automaker sponsored a steep discount on ethanol fuel at a Kroger fuel station in Irving, Texas, one of four north Texas Kroger stations that began offering the 85 percent ethanol fuel last year.

    Kroger was selling E85 for just 85 cents per gallon, nearly 70 percent below the current price of more than $2.54 per gallon, between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. during the promotion.

    During the event three GM E85-capable Chevrolet vehicles -- the Impala, the Tahoe, and the Silverado -- were on display, and Kroger and GM executives were on hand to answer consumer questions.

    Retailers: Wal-Mart; Stop & Shop; Giant Food, LLC; and Giant Food Stores, LLC and Tops Markets

    Service: Emergency meds

    Wal-Mart; Stop & Shop; Giant Food, LLC; and Giant Food Stores, LLC and Tops Markets were among the retailers to sign on to an initiative from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) that provides individuals displaced by natural disasters or other emergencies faster, safer access to vital prescription medications.

    The initiative employs technology that would allow licensed prescribers and pharmacists anywhere in the United States to securely access an information service offering the prescription history, or "Rx History," of a patient from the affected area. During an emergency, Rx History lowers the risk of medication errors by making important information available to licensed caregivers when and where they're treating patients. All communications within Rx History are compliant with HIPAA and state privacy and security laws.

    A properly authenticated and licensed medical doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or pharmacist can use Rx History to confirm the details of a patient's pre-emergency drug regimen, including dosage and physician instructions. Rx History also permits a patient's doctor and pharmacist to make a more informed check for -- and thus increase the chance of avoiding -- potentially harmful drug interactions.

    Retailer: Meijer

    Service: Digital photo solutions and consumer electronics education

    Meijer, Inc., based in Grand Rapids, Mich., last month inked a deal with HP to provide a complete digital HP Photo Center solution, which includes the HP Photosmart Studio and Microlab products.

    Under the agreement, HP will support the 181-store supercenter retailer's launch of the end-to-end photo center solution, which will also include Snapfish. HP is hosting Meijer's online photo site, including the capability to take online orders for prints and have creative photo products mailed directly to a customer's home, or sent to a Meijer location for fast, high-quality printing and convenient in-store pickup.

    The chain is working with Culver City, Calif.-based integrated retail marketing services agency Creative Channel Services, LLC (CCS) to integrate the latter's "CyberScholar Retail Solutions" program. The [email protected] solution will deliver in-store training from leading technology manufacturers to over 1,000 sales associates in Meijer's photo and "E4" electronics departments.

    Team members will complete CyberScholar.com training as part of Meijer's overall goal of developing product knowledge and customer service experts.

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