Remember trading stamps at the local grocery store? They're on the way back.
Until a few years ago, S&H Green stamps, Plaid stamps, Top Value stamps and others were common giveways at supermarkets. Under the pressure of decreased profit margins and consumer-oriented programs that emphasized unit-pricing and discounts without "frills," most stores dropped the stamps in the early 1970s after decades of popularity.
When the Wieboldt chain in the Chicago area dropped stamps at the beginning of 1975, an official said public interest had decreased "and they are no longer effective in attracting customers to the stores."
But things have changed. The nation's No. 1 food chain for many years, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., lost its top ranking in the early years of this decade to safeway Stores Inc. and has suffered through several years of slow sales growth and losses or lackluster earnings.
A&P discontinued E.F. MacDonald's Plaid stamps a decade ago but as part of its drive back to consistent profitibility, A&P is ready to offer stamps again.
Yesterday, A&P Chairman Jonathan Scott announced that his firm introduce Gold Bond stamps in 282 of its 2,000 stores, including some in Maryland and West Virginia. In the Chicago area, A&P plans to offer Sperry & Hutchinson Green Stamps at 120 divisional stores, according to the Chicago Tribune. Other stamp programs may be offered in different A&P divisions.
According to Scott, A&P's policy shift on stamps is part of a campaign to attract customers by "giving a little something extra." One feature with Gold Bond stamps will allow customers to redeem stamps for low-cost food items at the A&Ps (eggs for 2 cents a dozen, bacon for 9 cents a pound were cited as examples of purchases with stamps).
A trading stamp will be issued for each dollar's worth of food purchased and Gold Bond, owned by Carlson Companies of Plymouth, Minn., will open merchandise redemption centers in the divisions where A&P will offer stamps.
A&P stores that will offer the stamps are located in New England, Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, West Virginia, and New York. A spokesmen for A&P's Baltimore division, which includes the metropolitan Washington area, said A&P's stamp plans for this region will not be divulged ahead of any announced because of competitive pressures.
Giant Food Inc., which previously offered stamps, has no plans to resume the premium giveaways, a spokeswoman for the Landover-based chain said yesterday.
Stamps reportedly cost stores 2 percent of sales but A&P's Scott forecast that sales increases generated by other programs will more than offset the cost.
In the Washington and Baltimore markets, A&P ranks third in sales of groceries behind Giant and Safeway with 94 stores and about 15 percent of sales.