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Resolution Season Provides Drug and Food Retailers with a Post-Holiday Opportunity

Resolution season is becoming something of an event particularly for retailers that can't use clearance sales to take a parting, fourth quarter shot at consumers.

As problematic as they can be, clearance sales represent an opportunity. For warehouse club and supercenter retailers, for example, they are a chance to grab gift card and gift return spending. The clearance season isn't just a holiday extension provided to adjust gifts that don't fit recipient bodies or sensibilities. Purchasing in the time frame extends to everyday and seasonal necessities from canned soup to snow tires to diet aids. Indeed, the Great Save promotion that Target (TGT) just launched, particularly in its bulk goods component, represents a play for consumers who want to pack in necessities so they can get on the right track in the New Year or just bundle themselves away at home until spring. And, for many consumers, who continue to cope with economic uncertainty, necessities remain more attractive at a modest savings than another sweater or DVD might at a greater discount.

For retailers that aren't deep in electronics and other product categories that act as clearance draws, resolution season is an opportunity to reach consumers who are atoning for holiday indulgence. Take drug chains for example. Rite Aid (RAD) is dropping names to make its resolution season pitch the more attractive. The retailer has developed a promotion that involves fitness expert Denise Austin, medical weight control program Lindora, and even Harvard.

Rite Aid plans to distribute weight management guides based on Harvard Medical School advice at 4,800 of its stores across the United States and via its website. The guides are designed to make it easy for consumers to simplify confusing aspects of weight management, such as determining serving size.

For those shoppers who need a regimen, the retailer offers the Rite Weight Plan developed by Lindora as an Internet-based diet system. The program offers online weight tracking and food journals as well as daily e-mails designed to promote accountability and affirmation, not to mention stronger ties to Rite Aid. The retailer also encourages consumers to use its store pharmacists as a resource on nutrition, supplements, etc., in another tie-strengthening program component. Austin provides the training portion, with simple exercises developed to fit various consumer routines.

Naturally, the promotion has a discount element. In a deal that started on Dec. 27 and continues through Jan. 23, Rite Aid is offering customers who purchase $30 worth of designated diet and nutritional products a $5 gift card. Clearly, Walmart (WMT) isn't the only retailer that can offer discounts that have to be spent in its stores.

In a different take on resolution season, FreshDirect, the web-based food retailer that operates in metropolitan New York, is expanding an assortment of microwave-ready meals that total 500 calories or fewer. The low-calorie meals are part of a promotion that offers consumers an opportunity to, as is related on the company's home page, "Start the New Year right!"

Those meals are critical components of FreshDirect's resolution-season efforts and fall under proprietary brands such as Tabla, developed in conjunction with the New York City Indian-inspired restaurant, and Smart & Simple, developed by FreshDirect's own nutritionist and chefs to balance protein, vegetable and grain components in healthy meals. Yet, FreshDirect doesn't stop there. Over the Start the New Year right! tag line, the home page link invites consumers to check out a range of good-for-you, nutritionist-developed recipes that promote a variety of the grocery and refrigerated products it sells.

Of course, FreshDirect has a particular advantage in reaching out to consumers who are bunkered in until spring. All it's products are delivered.

Still, count on a wide range of food and drug retailers to make the most of resolution season, not only in their attempts to sell product and to remind consumers of the particular ways they meet basic needs but to establish an event as well, one they can build upon in the future.