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BY CSA STAFF

Flash Foods Boosts Loyalty-Card Functionality

Convenience store chain Flash Foods, Waycross, Ga., is expanding the value of its loyalty program by enabling shoppers to use their loyalty card to pay for orders.

Flash Foods’ loyalty program, Rewards in a Flash, leverages the Loyalink loyalty and marketing solution, from The Pinnacle Corp., Arlington, Texas. The centralized solution also provides Flash Foods with marketing and business analytics to measure promotion, store, supplier and consumer performance.

With the help of Pinnacle and a license agreement with E-Micro Corp., Flash Foods’ loyalty cards will now support three payment options. LoyalDebit will support a lower-cost ACH payment option; LoyalPass will enable consumers to prepay for fuel- dispenser sales, reducing occurrences of fuel theft; and LoyalPay, a prepaid-card option for consumers, is designed to help retailers eliminate escalating ransaction fees.

LoyalDebit is slated to roll out to all Flash Foods stores by May. Flash Foods plans to roll out LoyalPass by July, and LoyalPay will be available by the fourth quarter.

“We are constantly looking for ways to enhance the value of the Rewards in a Flash card for our customers,” said Jenny Bullard, CIO for Flash Foods.

“These expanded features will give Flash Foods the technology needed to take our loyalty card to the highest level,” she added. “A single loyalty card will be a form of payment and provide additional discounts. Their continued support will drive revenue to our bottom line.”

Besides reducing the costs associated with credit- and debit-card processing, these alternate-payment options will also reduce losses at the fuel dispenser, “because our drive-off theft should be reduced drastically,” Bullard told Chain Store Age.

Pet Supermarket Debuts Private Network

In an effort to link and manage operations across its 110 Southeast locations, Pet Supermarket, Sunrise, Fla., is trading in an antiquated network for a new, always-available private network.

Dial-up telephone lines historically supported most of the chain’s store-level operations. However, this configuration was prone to lost connections and disrupted transactions.

By partnering with Vancouver, Wash.-based New Edge Networks, Pet Supermarket will install high-speed digital subscriber lines at each store and link them together through a private, fully managed network. Since this infrastructure does not rely on the Internet, all data traffic between stores and the corporate office will remain private.

The vendor will also coordinate installation of in-store computer applications to the wide area network, and manage all trouble reporting and ticketing.

Initially, the network will support the chain’s card payment transactions. The direct connection enables Pet Supermarket stores to send their card payment transactions over the private network directly to its card processor, First Data Corp., rather than funneling traffic through headquarters.

By gaining a direct private circuit to the payment processor, Pet Supermarket will eliminate monthly communications costs. The network also eliminates a single point of failure if a store’s connection is lost.

“This connection is especially appealing because it will help our stores continue operations and process transactions even when hurricane threats sometime force the evacuation of our headquarters staff,” said Joe Ganzi, IT manager for Pet Supermarket.

The network will also support real-time access to its loyalty data during checkout and to back-office systems for remote maintenance.

Future applications include Internet telephony service and digital video monitoring. The network is compliant with Payment Card Industry security standards for safeguarding cardholder information.

Jack in the Box Now Wireless

Needing more speed, order accuracy and overall guest service at its drive-through, Jack in the Box Inc., San Diego, recently added a wireless digital communication system and speakers at approximately 900 company restaurants.

The new Wireless IQ system and speakers from HME, Poway, Calif., enable Jack in the Box to eliminate the static and interference typically encountered with obsolete headsets, thus allowing customers to clearly communicate their orders. Its multichannel feature enables the crew to listen to the customer’s order and communicate with each other on a private channel. This quickens the food-preparation process and enhances order accuracy.

Wireless IQ’s multilingual digital voice prompts in English, Spanish or French also help drive-through employees better understand the system diagnostics and to support smooth, uninterrupted operation.

The new technology went live in 2006. Jack in the Box and HME declined to share expansion plans.

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FINANCE

Finish Line 4Q Profit Narrows

BY CSA STAFF

Indianapolis, Finish Line said Thursday the company earned $21.1 million in its fourth quarter, compared with profit of $28.1 million during the same period a year prior. Revenue rose to $429 million from $399.2 million.

Expenses for the quarter rose to $93.9 million from $85.1 million. The company also saw an asset impairment charge of $7.5 million compared with $2.5 million a year ago. Comp-store sales fell 5.4% during the quarter.

For the full year, the company earned $32.4 million.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Sharper Image, OfficeMax Partner

BY CSA STAFF

San Francisco, Sharper Image has announced a multi-year licensing agreement with OfficeMax. The agreement with OfficeMax is the first to be announced by Sharper Image’s newly created brand licensing division.

Under the agreement, OfficeMax will offer Sharper Image branded office furniture and accessories made exclusively for OfficeMax under the Sharper Image Office brand. Products will include desks, chairs, shredders, desk sets, accessories and related items. The first product collection is currently rolling out into OfficeMax stores, with additional collections to debut throughout and beyond 2007.

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