Albertsons All But Kills Its Loyalty Program

Albertsons has killed its program that requires a loyalty card to get lower prices on some items, the grocery chain said on Wednesday (June 19).

In a blog post, the chain said it has begun notifying its Preferred Card loyalty customers that the card no longer gets any special prices. However, Albertsons is keeping other programs associated with the cards, including the Upromise college-savings program in which special manufacturer rebates are donated to a customer account earmarked for higher education expenses.

The chain is also keeping its affiliation with Shell's Fuel Rewards gasoline-discount program for now, but that program's future is still being reviewed.

The not-quite-death of the loyalty program is part of the ongoing merger between the two-thirds of Albertsons stores that were owned until March by Supervalu (NYSE:SVU) and the remainder that have been owned for years by private equity firm Cerberus. It was Supervalu that kept the loyalty-card program going; Cerberus killed the loyalty program for its Albertsons stores in 2007, citing the same "we don't want customers to have to show a card to get savings" line that was echoed in Wednesday's announcement.

In practice, the Cerberus-owned Albertsons chain didn't see a lot of use for the CRM data it was collecting, which according to insiders is why it spiked the program in 2007. Six years and a merger later, instead of trying to reintroduce loyalty cards for one-third of the stores, the chain is eliminating it for the other two-thirds.

That doesn't mean all of Albertsons' sister chains will get the no-loyalty treatment. The other grocery chains that Cerberus acquired from Supervalu in March—including Jewel-Osco, Shaw's, Star Market and Acme—haven't announced the end of their loyalty programs, which will presumably still collect CRM data. However, Jewel-Osco announced this week that it is ending its affiliation with the Fuel Rewards program.

For more:

- See this Albertsons announcement
- See this Supermarket News story

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