A supermarket chain in the Chicago area said it is dropping the loyalty card program it had helped pioneer.
The Jewel-Osco supermarket chain, recently bought by Cerberus Capital Management, said it had decided to put items on sale on a store-wide level, rather then offer discounts only to those with a store loyalty card.
"We think every customer deserves the same price. It's that simple," said Jewel spokeswoman Christine Wilcox.
The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday, however, that some analysts are puzzled by the move. Loyalty cards allow stores to reward repeat customers with discounts but they also create a digital treasure trove of information on individual shopping preferences and habits that stores use to target individual customers.
Those coupons printed up on the spot for loyalty card holders are often customized from data the cards have already fed into computers.
"I suspect that they were not mining the data and certainly not in any kind of meaningful way," said Jim Hertel, managing partner at Barrington-based Willard Bishop, a grocery consulting firm, who said he did not understand why the store would drop the loyalty card program.
"That would have to be the case because once people start developing these kinds of insights most of them literally can't stop, it's that powerful," Hertel said.
Jewel-Osco President William Emmons said the store can do better analyzing data store by store.
"We don't feel that we need to have an individual customer's detail so much as the data of our product movement in each store," he said. "We have a local approach. The majority of marketing and merchandising decisions for Jewel-Osco customers are made in our Itasca office by local associates who live and shop in the neighborhoods where our stores are located."