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    Winn-Dixie Offers Rewards Card

    Loyal shoppers to receive merchandise discounts and special perks.

    MIAMI -- Winn-Dixie joins a growing list of supermarkets around the country turning to loyalty programs as a way to boost revenues and collect valuable marketing data about its consumers. While the concept has been around for more than a decade, Winn-Dixie is the first, and only, major Florida grocery chain rewarding frequent shoppers.

    The reward card is the latest piece of the turnaround strategy by CEO Al Rowland, who has been revamping operations and trying to boost profits since taking over the helm at the Jacksonville, Fla.-based chain two years ago, according to The Miami Herald

    "Whatever a retailer can do to get an edge or attract customers is very important," said Todd Hultquist, a spokesman for Food Marketing Institute (FMI). "The more you know about your customers and the more your customer knows about you, eventually that will lead to more sales over time."

    In addition to the weekly in-store specials, members are eligible for discounts on gas, selected hotels, car rentals and entertainment.

    Joanne Gage, senior director of consumer marketing services for Winn-Dixie, said the program was designed to help the supermarket chain hold off competition from convenience stores and other big-box retailers.

    "We want to recognize who our best customers are and reward them," Gage said. "It's not just a lure. The deals will remain very attractive."

    The Winn-Dixie cards were launched last week in 450 stores, including almost all of the chain's Florida stores. Winn-Dixie hopes to get 80 percent of its transactions done by cardholders. If the program is successful, it will be expanded to the rest of the chain's 1,140 stores.

    Winn-Dixie can use the data collected by the reward card to analyze shopping habits, improve direct customer marketing and adjust the products in certain stores. Convenience store and petroleum marketing industry analysts for years have said the industry needs to develop similar programs to reward frequent customers.

    It's only been in the last year or two that a number of the nation's largest supermarket chains have launched programs. In addition to Winn-Dixie, others starting similar programs include Kroger Co. and Albertson's, neither of which offer the cards in Florida, the report said.

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