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How to Partner with Your Local Supermarket

Whether you buy your food in a mom-and-pop store or a national chain, your local supermarket is a logical partner in your search for booster club support. Demonstrating a commitment to customers is an essential part of a grocer's mission, which is why C&R Supermarket's Brooke Foster took the lead in raising funds for high school athletics--and why she thinks her giant sub fundraiser could work in your town, too.


By Brooke Foster
Owner, C&R Supermarkets


I live in a small town called Macon, Mo., and there's a group of booster moms here who shop in our store. They do fundraisers all year long, and whenever they go to away games, they bring their kids sack lunches from our deli. They do a tremendous amount of business with us, and we were looking for a way to say thank you.


At one of our managers' meetings, someone suggested doing a giant sub fundraiser, where we'd sell sub sandwiches for $5 a foot, with a dollar from each sale going to the local high school athletic boosters. It sounded like a great idea, and we decided to start with our stores in Macon, La Plata, Shelbina, and Monroe City.


Next, I talked to the booster club presidents at Macon County High School and South Shelby High School, who I know personally, and to the athletic directors at La Plata High School and Monroe City High School. Of course, everybody jumped in and agreed to help with publicity, which was all we needed to hear before we could start working out the details.


Last year, our Macon store did a giant sub promotion, so our deli manager already knew how to order all the product, get it to the store ahead of time, determine the price, schedule the staff, and build the sandwich. We wanted to come up with something that would please everyone, so we chose a foot-long sub with roast beef, turkey, ham, American cheese, and lettuce. People could add their own condiments, and every sandwich came with a bag of chips and a soda, all for $5.


We estimated the number of subs based on the size of the towns and the support we expected to get from the boosters. We ordered supplies for 100 subs in La Plata, 200 in Shelbina, 200 in Monroe City, and 300 in Macon. The week of the fundraiser, we bought ads in the local newspapers and gave copies to the athletic directors at the four high schools. They printed up flyers, sent one home with each kid, and made announcements on the school PA system. I e-mailed a pdf of the ad to each of the booster club presidents, who forwarded it to their members.


That Thursday, we set up a big table in our prep area and started an assembly line. In Monroe City, where I was helping, it took three of us about two hours to assemble 200 subs, not counting the slicing, which probably took another four hours, or baking all the bread. When Friday came, it was like getting ready for Thanksgiving. We had boosters on-site to help promote the sandwiches, and when people walked through the door, they saw a sub that was 100 or 200 or 300 feet long--big enough to wrap around the whole store. It felt like a party.


In La Plata, a town of 1,000 people, the subs were gone in 35 minutes--and when 10 percent of the population comes in to buy a sandwich, that's pretty amazing. In Macon, all the teachers ordered subs for lunch, and we delivered about 50 to the school, with boosters selling the rest. Within a couple of hours, we'd sold every sandwich, raised $800 for high school athletics, and had a lot of fun doing it. Our feet were tired, but we had a great time visiting with people, and it didn't even feel like work. That night, I went to the basketball game and heard a lot of great feedback from the community.


It was a win-win for everybody. Customers were very appreciative, and their stomachs were full. Boosters raised the money they needed without having to work too hard. We benefited, too. We were hoping to generate traffic in the store and create a fun shopping experience, which is exactly what happened. We strengthened our relationship with the high school boosters, and hopefully they'll let us continue to serve them. It felt a lot more satisfying than just buying an ad or making a donation.


Next month, we're going to do this fundraiser at four more stores, and there's no reason a promotion like this wouldn't work in your town, too. If your local grocery story is part of a chain, you may need to get corporate approval, but any store manager is going to see this as a good deal. Start with the store manager, because that's who needs to stand behind it, and make it clear from the start you're going to help promote it.


Let's face it: If a supermarket is doing something to benefit your kid's school, you're going to support it. If a fundraiser is going to bring traffic to their store, especially new customers, they have an amazing opportunity to prove they're a great place to shop.


It might look like a major undertaking, but it really wasn't that difficult. All it took was a few extra telephone calls and a little attention to detail. My advice? Make up your mind you're going to succeed, get your team behind it, and focus on making it happen.


Brooke Foster is the owner of C&R Supermarkets, which operates 12 stores in rural Missouri.



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