Retailers draw seniors by making deals
Many stores and eateries here offer discounts regularly to entice patrons over 55July 19th, 2012
On the first Tuesday of each month, at least five shuttle buses carrying retirement center residents navigate at various times to the Spokane Valley Fred Meyer store.
The major attraction drawing this transit activity is the store's senior discount day for customers ages 55 and older who get 10 percent off many goods.
"It seems to get more popular every month," says Steve Valentine, Fred Meyer store director, regarding the senior discount. "They make it a half-day or full-day event here."
He adds, "Some of them are making what seems to me to be two- or three-week purchases. They'll gather in our service deli and have something to eat or drink. It's become a social event, I think."
Located near the northeast corner of Sprague Avenue and Sullivan Road, the Valley store is one of four Spokane-area Fred Meyer sites that all hold the monthly discount day. Valentine says the Valley store's senior day draws many retirement-age residents from nearby neighborhoods, as well as about five retirement community shuttle buses from different Valley and Liberty Lake centers.
He says that to handle the extra shopping traffic on senior days, the store usually schedules about six employees more than are typically on hand.
Fred Meyer is among a number of retail outlets and restaurants in the Spokane area that have discount policies for retirement-age customers. Because the discount policies vary widely among retail outlets and aren't available at some, many retirees say they simply ask whenever they get to the register whether there is a senior discount.
"A lot of seniors who are on a limited budget will ask if there is a senior discount, and vendors generally are very happy to accommodate that and provide a discount," says Marj Tomes, a bookkeeper at the Corbin Senior Activity Center.
"Casinos have senior days, and some movie theaters do; thrift shops offer senior discount days," says Bonnie McDade, executive director of the Southside Senior & Community Center. "I do know that from a general standpoint, it's very popular among seniors."
McDade adds that she often overhears the center's members exchange ideas about senior discounts at such places as Applebee's restaurants. She says many of the center's day trips involve activities that offer discounts for seniors, such as going to see a play, or a dinner and movie out.
"They wait for those days like they're gold," she says.
The Applebee's restaurant at 2107 E. 29th on Spokane's South Hill regularly sees a number of senior customers, says Jason Kreamer, one of the managers there. He says all of the Applebee's outlets in the Spokane area offer what's called the Golden Apple discount that gives 10 percent off to people who are 55 years old and older.
"They don't have to have a card," Kreamer says. "They just come in and get 10 percent off. It's very popular here, but that's because we're located close to some retirement communities."
He adds, "We get a lot of people who ask for it, but most of the time we just give it to them before they even ask."
Diane Galloway, spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest, says its 11 regional thrift stores offer a senior discount every Monday to those age 55 and older. She says the discount is for 20 percent off of any merchandise item.
"I know it's just jammed," Galloway says about activity on senior discount Mondays.
For all of last year, sales at all of its thrift stores totaled $15.6 million, she says. On any given Monday, 11 percent of the customers used the senior discount, and "that is consistent store to store," Galloway adds.
Lani Batters, a 74-year-old South Hill retiree, says she does some local shopping on senior discount days, just as one of many savings tactics.
Batters says she routinely uses coupons, searches for online deals, and sometimes shops during ShopKo's senior discount days, typically the first Wednesday of each month for 15 percent off, with some exclusions. ShopKo Stores Inc. says on its website that its senior discount days are for seniors 55 and older.
"I know ShopKo does a senior discount day," Batters says. "Whenever I need some shirts or capris, or dog food, sometimes household items, I go."
She adds, "I'm on very limited income, and every penny counts."
At Fred Meyer senior days in the Valley, Valentine says, "Most customers will request the senior discount at checkout." He adds that if someone doesn't, and cashiers think that a person qualifies, the employees may ask, "Are you someone who would qualify for the 55-or-over discount?"
Amanda Ip, a Portland-based Fred Meyer spokeswoman, says the chain's stores see a definite spike in business on senior discount Tuesdays.
She says the chain's senior discount applies to all apparel, shoes, accessories, toys, home products, most electronics, and automotive items. It excludes bakery and deli items, food sold by the pound, and non-private-labeled food, health and beauty items, she adds. Seniors can obtain the discount on Fred Meyer-brand food, health, and beauty products, including those sold under the Kroger label, Ip says.
Naida Pritchard, 86, says she routinely shops at the Valley Fred Meyer store but often targets going on the senior discount days. She was in the store on that day in July and filled her cart with a number of Fred Meyer- and Kroger-labeled food items.
While she has her own garden to help save money, Pritchard says the store discount helps. "At my age, hopefully I don't run out of Social Security," she adds.
At the Hillyard Senior Center, administrative assistant Mary Sullivan says its activities director will schedule trips or tours geared toward senior specials, such as a discount day to visit the fair. Located at 4001 E. Cook, the center also has some discounted services periodically offered onsite for seniors, such a massage therapist who offers a $5 chair massage by appointment.