Delray Beach company remakes Green Stamps for the Internet age

Monday, October 10th 2005, 10:26 am
By: News On 6

DELRAY BEACH _ The S&H Green Stamp once was an everyday feature of American life, as shoppers pasted countless numbers of the trading stamps into booklets, waiting for a day of redemption.

The stamps, first marketed by Thomas Sperry and Shelly Hutchinson back in 1896, peaked in the 1960s, when an estimated 80 percent of households across the country were collecting Green Stamps and trading them in for loot such as toasters, watches and baby walkers at around 800 redemption centers.

The stamps are long gone, but the concept lives. The new version, launched in 2000, is S&H Greenpoints, tracked electronically and redeemed online without any licking of stamps.

The company behind it, now known as S&H Solutions, relocated in May to Delray Beach from Salem, Mass. It celebrated the grand opening of its corporate headquarters in August.

``The brand has top-of-mind recall, above 75 percent,'' said Ron Pedersen, chief executive officer and president of S&H Solutions. ``It reminds Americans of a lot of virtuous things _ quality, reliability.''

Close to 10 million households are participating in the Greenpoints program, Pedersen said.

Consumers can sign up online and obtain points through online shopping with Macy's, Barnes & Noble and other retailers who participate in the program and then redeem them for merchandise. A Rival Steam & Dry Iron, for example, is 7,900 points.

S&H also has seven grocery retailers with more than 400 stores where more than half a million cards are scanned each day, and the Greenpoints obtained can be used to buy groceries, said Al Smith, S&H's vice president of sales.

There are no participating in-store retailers in Florida, although the company is pursuing that possibility.

Dianne Blancato, spokeswoman for Lowes Foods, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based supermarket, said the store has been offering S&H Greenpoints since 2001.

``We think that S&H Greenpoints are quite a great value to our customers,'' Blancato said. ``With every purchase they make, they get 10 points per dollar they spend. It becomes a bank account for them.''

Lorrie Griffith, editor of The Shelby Report, a Gainesville, Ga., publication that covers the supermarket industry, said S&H provides a way for stores that don't have a loyalty program to have one without operating it themselves. But Griffith said she wonders how many shoppers are really interested enough to go online and buy merchandise using points.

``It does require something of the shopper,'' Griffith said. ``Green Stamps were a different time.''

While nostalgia may provide some instant recognition for customers of a certain age, the company provides more than just loyalty-building for retailers, Pedersen said.

``Our business is data mining, the superior application of data and influencing consumer behavior in retail stores,'' he said. ``Through the application of data over time, we have demonstrated retailers can improve their margins.''

The company is poised for growth and expects to double the number of employees within the next two years, Pedersen said. Of its 90 employees, 75 are in Delray Beach, working in marketing, accounting, information technology and human resources. The other 15 are field employees who work in the corporate headquarters of S&H's retail partners.

Randy Welker, business recruitment director at the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, said S&H is a great addition to the city's business climate.

``It is the type of company we are trying to attract,'' Welker said.