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Retailers’ Charity Programs Offer Benefits for Everyone

Q. It seems that more retailers have charity-related discounts this holiday shopping season. Is this altruism or savvy marketing?

A. It’s both. With consumers expected to spend less this season, both on holiday gifts and donations to charity, more retailers are running promotions tied to charities “and putting more focus on communicating those efforts to their customers,” says Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group.

Such “cause-related marketing” campaigns typically involve the retailer donating a portion of what shoppers spend to specific charities. This year, some are also rewarding customers with coupons or future rebates.

Whether or not they’re getting a price break, shoppers get to feel good after making effortless donations to worthy causes. Charities win by getting money in an economy where contributions have decreased. And stores may benefit most of all. They get a hefty tax deduction for the donations, an increase in store traffic, and good publicity. Also, even though “there’s no indication these programs increase sales,” Davis says, “they likely do increase customer loyalty toward that retailer.”

The programs include:

• Macy’s Thanks for Sharing campaign earns the shopper a 10 percent reward on purchases made through Dec. 31, with a rebate card issued in February. But it requires a $25 enrollment fee, of which $10 goes to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the American Heart Association and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


• Mandee’s Soles4Souls provides a coupon for 20 percent off one item in exchange for an in-store donation of a pair of gently worn shoes through Dec. 24.


• Target donates $2 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with the purchase of its store-redeemable GiftCoins through Dec. 24.


• Toys “R” Us continues to seek cash and merchandise donations for its Toys for Tots program, but this year it will also donate $1 worth of toys for any person who becomes a “fan” at or through Dec. 24.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.