Sears' Back-to-School Campaign Helps K.I.D.S.

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In a two-fold effort to boost sales of school apparel and to donate clothing to needy children, Sears is tying its annual back-to-school marketing campaign to a national nonprofit foundation called K.I.D.S. (Kids In Distressed Situations).


"We have never integrated a cause-related [campaign] into our back-to-school advertising," said Sears spokeswoman Mary Ann O'Rourke. "It's a wonderful program, and it allows our customers to get involved."


The retailer together with some of its vendors will donate clothes equaling up to 1 percent of its back-to-school clothing sales to K.I.D.S. for the next two months. Sears is aiming to donate up to $4 million in clothes to the New York-based organization. It will begin advertising the program, "Get Back Give Back," next month through its Web site, television commercials, Sunday circulars, point-of-purchase materials and mailings to members of its KidVantage Club loyalty program.


KidVantage, which began in 1991, has 10 million members who receive discount offers on children's clothes throughout the year. Members will receive a 20-page, full-color catalog featuring back-to-school clothes.


Although Sears relies primarily on its salespeople to encourage customers to sign up for KidVantage, it also mails out applications to likely prospects. Sears performs overlays on its database of credit card customers to pinpoint individuals with children and to identify women who recently bought clothes in its maternity department.


"We thought that our target audience -- mothers with children -- would appreciate a program that would allow them to buy clothing over time and earn discounts on name-brand clothes," said Jean Haley, director of customer-relationship marketing. "We decided on frequent-purchasing programs because we know they are buying a lot of clothes for kids as they grow."


When the program debuted in 1991, salespeople punched customers' paper loyalty cards after they reached a certain amount of purchases. Today, the program is fully automated. Sears' customers receive a coupon for 15 percent off a future purchase of children's clothes and shoes with their receipt when they reach $100 in purchases.

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