Friday, November 17, 2017
Business

Winn-Dixie axes Fuel Perks, to roll out new loyalty program with broader discounts

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Maybe you've already seen the Shell billboards that have popped up along major interstates in Central Florida which say the popular Winn-Dixie Fuel Perks program is on its way out.

By the end of April, shoppers' Winn-Dixie loyalty cards and the points they've earned from shopping at Winn-Dixie stores won't get them a discount at Shell gas stations anymore.

Winn-Dixie is announcing today that it's replacing its Fuel Perks program with a partnership through Plenti, a company that allows users to collect points as they shop, which can be redeemed through a network of major retailers, from Macy's to Exxon Mobil. Southeastern Grocers, Winn-Dixie's parent company, is the first supermarket company to use its program.

All brands under the Southeastern Grocers umbrella, which includes Winn-Dixie, BI-LO, Fresco y Más and Harveys grocery stores will be replacing their loyalty cards and programs for a Plenti collaboration beginning April 5. Customers can enroll in the program at a local store beginning today. Fuel Perks points and the current Winn-Dixie loyalty cards will expire at the end of April.

Previous Coverage: The new Winn-Dixie in South Tampa doesn't look like a Winn-Dixie, and that's by design

"We've been studying our loyalty program for some time to determine how relevant it was to our customers. What we found was that customers were experiencing a number of problems," said Southeastern Grocers CEO Ian McLeod during a phone interview with the Times on Tuesday. "They were concerned that the Fuel Perks offers expired too quickly (at the end of every month). And since the price of gas has decreased over the last two to three years, we noticed that the level engagement with the loyalty card program was declining."

Southeastern Grocers piloted the new program with Plenti late last year at Harveys stores — which are clustered mostly in Georgia and North Florida — and were impressed with the immediate results, McLeod said. The customer engagement with the program rose from two out of 10 shoppers to eight fairly quickly, he said.

With Fuel Perks, customers started to accrue points after spending $50 and points expired every month. With Plenti, shoppers earn points with every dollar they spend, and can gain bonus points for buying specific products that Winn-Dixie will promote in its stores.

Those points are filtered in shoppers' Plenti accounts, which they can redeem on purchases at Macy's, for gas at Exxon Mobil stations, for meals at Chili's restaurants, to apply toward a phone bill at AT&T, or even on a later trip back to Winn-Dixie.

Winn-Dixie will offer more than 1,000 products with Plenti points attached to them for the April 5 launch of the program.

Previous Coverage: Winn-Dixie trying to stand out by lowering prices of staple items

"The savings are far broader and are more aligned to our customers interests," McLeod said. "We want to reward those customers who are shopping with us more frequently and this is an ideal way to do it. We think our customers definite saw the benefit during the pilot program and are actively redeeming points already."

McLeod said he hopes this revamped loyalty program will help Winn-Dixie stand out from its competitors. Florida has been a hotbed of activity for grocery stores lately, with many new brands opening stores for the first time in Florida this year.

Previous Coverage: Winn-Dixie is beefing up its private label brands

"We're in a very competitive market and always looking for ways to offer a better value," said McLeod, who added that Winn-Dixie recently revamped its private label brand, lowered prices on staple goods and is upgrading stores across the state.

Many of Winn-Dixie's competitors, like Walmart or Publix, don't offer loyalty programs. "This is something that can't be copied," McLeod said.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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