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    Competitive Watch

    Winn-Dixie launches Baby Rewards Club, Dominick's lays off 500.

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie is launching a Baby Rewards Club that allows enrolled shoppers to receive discounts on merchandise, entries into sweepstakes and other special offers and incentives. The new program is linked with the Winn-Dixie Customer Reward Card, which is part of a major initiative focused on superior customer relationship marketing to reinforce the company's new Real Deal brand positioning.

    Shoppers can enroll in the program in the store or online. Once membership is activated, shoppers earn Baby Rewards Club points for every dollar spent on baby care products at Winn-Dixie. Upon accumulation of 200 points, Baby Rewards Club members will get a $10 instant discount on that particular order, provided the order is more than $10.

    "Winn-Dixie is committed to first-class customer service," said president and CEO Al Rowland. "The birth of our Baby Rewards Club is just another way we are reaching out to meet the needs of our loyal patrons."

    Other benefits to club members include a free quarterly club magazine with articles, coupons and special offers. Winn-Dixie will help club members celebrate their baby's first birthday by offering a free, personalized cake and other special offers good throughout the year. Club members also are automatically enrolled in a New Year Baby Rewards Club Sweepstakes each time they shop. Each New Year's Eve a drawing is held to give away a variety of prizes that include a camcorder or a year's supply of baby food or disposable diapers.

    The Winn-Dixie Baby Rewards Club is sponsored in part by Gerber, Heinz and Pampers. Membership points accumulate with every dollar spent on eligible baby products including baby formula, diapers, wipes, baby food, baby lotions, oils, powder, soaps, ointments, nursing accessories, baby accessory gift sets and more.

    In addition to immediate savings on purchases for the baby, Winn-Dixie customers also can participate in the Upromise program and use their Baby Rewards Club purchases to earn money for college when they select certain brands of items in Winn-Dixie stores.

    Meanwhile, just weeks after resolving a labor dispute that threatened to shutter all 113 of its stores, Safeway-owned Dominick's fired 500 of its nearly 13,000 workers, The Associated Press reports.

    Wynona Redmond, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based supermarket chain, blamed sluggish sales for the layoffs. Dominick's also said it would close a struggling store in Chicago in January. She declined to comment on speculation that as many as 20 stores might be closed after the holidays.

    Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc. bought the Chicago-area chain in 1998 for $1.2 billion but now is looking to sell it. Dominick's three-year contract with the United Food and Commercial Workers union expired Nov. 9, and Safeway threatened to shut down the chain if it was unable to restructure labor agreements to bring stores in line with contracts at Jewel Food Stores, its prime competitor in Chicago.

    The company said it needed to rein in labor and health care costs. Workers refused, but on Nov. 19 both sides agreed to extend the contract for eight months while Safeway tried to find a buyer for the chain. Potential buyers include Minneapolis-based SuperValu Inc. and Cincinnati-based Kroger Co.

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