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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jul. 26, 201905:10 AM EST

Far East Brokers launches GrillPerks loyalty program

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The program is designed to create a year-round demand for grilling products, which Far East Brokers supplies to retailers.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

For the majority of Far East Brokers & Consultants Inc.’s 38 years in business, selling seasonal general merchandise to retailers has been a strong component. 

The company services the retail industry – mostly supermarkets – with seasonal imported and promotional products, which essentially are the items at a grocery store “you can’t eat,” said Far East Brokers President and CEO Morrie Zimmerman.

It’s the largest supplier of its kind in the country, and employs 40 people in the U.S. and China.

In the past five years, the company needed to focus more on marketing and to find innovative ways to do so. 

GrillPerks, a cross-category, consumer loyalty program for grilling product manufacturers, is Far East Brokers’ way of doing that. 

“Retail’s changed so much that it’s not enough to just buy good stuff and send it out there and see if it sells,” said Zimmerman, whose father, Charles, is the company’s founder. 

“Now we need to help them sell it. So that’s where something like GrillPerks comes in,” he said.

The online program, which launched in March, provides users with tips, recipes and promotions on grilling products, and rewards them with gift cards when they buy from participating retailers.

When a customer buys from a participating brand, they photograph and upload the receipt to GrillPerks.com, and for every $50 spent, the customer receives a $10 retailer or Visa gift card.

Far East Brokers sells many of the brands participating in the program, such as Kingsford and Mr. Bar-B-Q. 

The program is designed to create more demand at supermarkets for grilling products year-round.

With Far East Brokers supplying grilling products to supermarkets, in addition to the food products already there, shoppers can purchase what they need for grilling in one place.

That keeps shoppers from needing to patronize competitive supermarkets, said Mike Sims, executive vice president.

GrillPerks began four years ago as a marketing partnership among several of the participating grilling brands.

Grilling products would have on-package coupons for other grilling brands within the partnership. But from a marketing standpoint, it was difficult for Far East Brokers to track who was using the coupons, Sims said. 

“Printed coupons especially aren’t the way the emerging consumers and the millennials and so forth like to buy – they don’t clip coupons,” Sims said. 

“So we got together with the partners and we said, ‘How do we evolve this grilling partnership?’ And we all agreed that moving it to a digital platform was the right way,” he said.

The updated program is taking off, Sims said. He expects it to grow more in the summer, the peak grilling months.

Even though the program is on a digital platform, it’s not necessarily to target millennial shoppers. 

Everyone likes to save money, Sims said, and those in older generations are adopting technology to some extent. 

Far East Brokers does research on consumers to better understand their spending habits, and in turn, understand what products to sell to retailers and how best to do so. 

Since general merchandise often is a small part of what a grocer sells, rather than investing in consumer research in the area, supermarkets rely on Far East Brokers to provide the information.

Sims said the company has had positive growth for “many years running,” but wouldn’t disclose the company’s revenue because it is privately owned.

Zimmerman and Sims said they consider themselves “students of retail.” 

When they’re not with customers in their merchandise showroom, they’re out in their customers’ and competitors’ stores. 

On their last trip, they visited more than 200 grocery stores in about eight weeks, all of which covered different demographic groups. These trips help them better understand the retail landscape, they said.

“You can have the greatest product and the greatest price in the world, but if you don’t understand how to get it from point A to point B, and ultimately into the shopping cart, it doesn’t do you any good,” Zimmerman said.

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