RETAILERS: IN THE FRONT LINES
Byline: Valerie Seckler / Sharon Edelson / David Moin
NEW YORK — Retailers are front and center in the fight against breast cancer, a disease that is expected to strike 180,200 women this year.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that breast cancer prevention, early detection and research have been embraced by department and specialty stores. After all, they cater primarily to women, who have made the cause a priority among health issues.
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation gets the lion’s share of support from many chains. Education takes precedence, with stores sponsoring lectures from cancer survivors and medical experts and distributing preventative literature.
From local events to corporatewide sponsorships, retailers across the country are throwing their considerable muscle behind the cause. Here’s how several of them have gotten involved.
Nordstrom is partnering with Lifetime Television to promote the Gift, a self-detection guide and kit developed by In Your Corner, the company formed by Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen.
Nordstrom is selling the kit, which retails for $19.95, in its lingerie departments. The chain is the exclusive retailer of the Gift for the month of October.
“All our stores will be making donations to their local Susan G. Komen chapter in an amount that will most likely exceed the amount of product that we’ve sold,” a Nordstrom spokeswoman said.
Nordstrom has also scheduled wellness symposiums with Brinker as a keynote speaker at several stores, including San Diego; Garden City, N.Y.; West Hartford, Conn., and Beachwood, Ohio. To complement Brinker, Nordstrom has asked local health experts to speak on subjects such as nutrition and hormone replacement therapy.
In October, Evelyn Lauder will speak about her survivor experiences at Nordstrom stores in Seattle; Skokie, Ill., and McLean, Va.
The service-oriented Nordstrom has prosthesis coordinators available at all its stores to help with customer fittings.
“They act not only as a fitter, but coordinate with insurance companies and file the paperwork,” the spokeswoman said of the sales specialists. “We are a provider for some health care plans, so that way, the customer doesn’t even have to deal with the reimbursement. In all of our stores, we can handle the Medicare claims.”
Nordstrom has also taken the unusual step of operating mammography centers in partnership with local hospitals in four of its stores: Skokie, Ill.; Glendale and Riverside, Calif., and Littleton, Colo.
The mammography centers are usually located off the cosmetics area. Nordstrom provides customers with beepers so they can shop until the center is ready to see them.
“The essence of the idea came from a hospital, which approached us with the idea of creating a more accessible, more comfortable environment for women to have mammograms,” the spokeswoman said. “We create the space for the facility and the partner hospital operates it day to day.”
Henri Bendel on Oct. 15 will host its second Shop for the Cure shopping party to benefit the New York Race for the Cure’s breast health program.
This year, the retailer will hold a Shop for the Cure party at its Boston store in addition to the Fifth Avenue flagship.
“After realizing that many of the people involved in the Susan G. Komen Foundation are our customers, we will be staging the event in New York and Boston simultaneously,” said a Bendel’s spokesman.
Bendel’s donates 10 percent of sales on the evening of the event to the cause. The retailer also supports the event by sending direct mail pieces to customers.
As a specialty store focusing exclusively on women, Bendel’s believes “it’s important for us to remain involved with women’s issues,” the spokesman said. “Based on our event last year, we became a sponsor of the Race for the Cure in New York.”
He said Bendel’s has received “a healthy number of RSVPs for Oct. 15.” Bendel’s will have several exclusives that evening. For example, Susan Lazar, a supporter of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, designed a special scarf for the Race for the Cure.
Sales associates have been wearing the pink ribbon that signifies breast cancer month and telling customers about the Shop for the Cure party. The night of the party, the front of the store will be gelled pink for the cause.
“This is part of our ongoing effort to reach out to our customers and appeal to their sense of intelligence,” the spokesman said. “As we all know, it’s not just about clothes.”
On the main floor of Macy’s Herald Square, jewelry designer Carolee Friedlander hosted a wardrobing seminar Sept. 24 where customers purchased a limited-edition champagne bottle pin designed exclusively for Macy’s. Carolee signed certificates of authenticity for each pin purchased and a portion of the sales were donated to SHARE, Self Help for Women with Breast or Ovarian Cancer.
Ann Taylor was a platinum sponsor of the 1997 Race for the Cure and a gold sponsor in 1996.
The chain’s involvement went beyond donating money, however. Ann Taylor motivated its troops to participate in the race and was the recipient of the largest corporate team award two years in a row. In 1996, 350 sales associates participated, and in 1997, 641 associates took part in the race.
The company is also a patron sponsor of the Race for the Cure in Louisville, where Ann Taylor’s distribution center is located.
In addition, Ann Taylor hosted a survivor’s reception at its Madison Avenue flagship in 1996 and 1997. Speakers at the Aug. 6, 1997, reception were Donna Hanover; Sylvia Weinstock, who is known for designing extravagant wedding cakes; Claire Shulman, the Queens borough president, and Patricia DeRosa, president and chief operating officer of Ann Taylor.
Throughout the month of October, Ann Taylor will be giving away pink ribbons and shower cards in its stores that explain how to do self-examinations.
J.C. Penney Co.’s top-level sponsorship of The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Race for the Cure is only one of the ways in which the company is getting behind breast cancer awareness month.
Penney’s is the sole presenting national sponsor of the 15-year-old race.
By sponsoring what is actually a series of fund-raising races across the country, said Stefan Strickland, sports program manager, “We felt we could summon a tremendous amount of support for breast cancer awareness. We have stores in all 77 cities where there are races, except for Aspen, Colo.”
This year’s contests began in January in West Palm Beach, Fla., and will end in Los Angeles on Nov. 2.
“About 80 percent of our customers are women, and we believe that breast cancer should be openly discussed,” emphasized Strickland. “We want to highlight breast cancer both as a women’s issue and a family issue, and to highlight the racing as a wellness issue.”
To further support the Race for the Cure, Penney’s promotes upcoming races in the areas where they’re being held, via in-store videos, and runs newspaper ads in some of those markets. The company also produces public service announcements to hawk the races on local TV in the cities where the event is held.
In the three years since Penney’s signed on as the national presenting sponsor, it has seen the number of Komen races run up to 77 from the 46 held in 1994. “They’re hoping for 422,500 participants this year, compared with 187,275 in 1994,” Strickland said.
Last year’s races raised $9.5 million, which was allocated in grants to 315 local groups and 42 national organizations that are dedicated to breast cancer research and education. Typically, 75 percent of the funds raised in the contests are given to local groups, Strickland said.
“We promote the races through our credit card statements, which we mail to people in locales where the events are being held,” Strickland explained.
In addition to the race sponsorship, Penney’s is supporting breast cancer awareness month with the purchase of an ad in the Oct. 13 issue of Newsweek, which will feature a special section on breast cancer.
Penney is also backing a series of cable TV programs to be shown this month under the banner, “Lifetime Applauds the Fight Against Breast Cancer.” The company will be highlighted in spots that identify it as a sponsor of the Lifetime programs. Programs will contemplate topics such as the impact of breast cancer on people’s lifestyles and new developments in breast cancer research.
Uptons, a 75-unit chain based in Norcross, Ga., outside Atlanta, said it will participate in Lee National Denim Day to support breast cancer research and education initiatives. The chain, a division of the American Retail Group, hopes to raise $2 million in a single day. One hundred percent of all donations will go to Susan G. Komen.
For the entire week (Oct. 5-11) prior to Lee National Denim Day, a purchase of a pair of men’s or women’s Lee jeans from any Uptons store will result in a $2 donation to the foundation. Also, customers purchasing Lee denim will receive a pink ribbon lapel sticker, which is the universal symbol for breast cancer awareness.
Uptons associates are encouraged to support Lee National Denim Day. In exchange for a $5 contribution to the foundation, employees will be permitted to wear denim to work on Oct. 10. Uptons will match the employee contributions.
David Dworkin, president and ceo of Uptons, said in a statement, “Our participation in this important event is one more way we can demonstrate our commitment to our customers and their concerns.”
Breast cancer is the leading cancer among American women and is second only to lung cancer in all cancer deaths, the Komen group has found. By the end of the decade, approximately 1.8 million women and 12,000 men will be diagnosed with this serious disease.
“According to our research, about 75 percent of all families eventually will be touched by cancer,” said John Connolly, community relations manager at Sears, Roebuck & Co. “We felt we could position ourselves to provide family support.”
Sears is aiding the breast cancer cause through its ongoing support of Gilda’s Club, a two-year-old support group for cancer patients and their family and friends. The clubhouses run by Gilda’s Group provide a venue for relaxation and social interaction among people touched by cancer, Connolly noted.
The club is named for Gilda Radner, the comedienne and original cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” who died of ovarian cancer.
Sears has raised $80,000 in the first six months of the year through the sale of Gilda’s Club Neckwear ties and scarfs, available exclusively in the chain’s stores. A donation of $2 is made from the sale of each $20 tie and $10 or $12 scarf. Some ties are designed by celebrities, including Jason Alexander, Katie Couric and Gene Wilder, who was married to Radner and is a co-founder of Gilda’s Club.
During the fourth quarter, Sears is intensifying its fund-raising effort and kicking off a Sears Card promotional tie-in and adding Gilda’s Club concept shops to 12 of its stores.
The concept shops will merchandise articles such as T-shirts, hats and other logoed apparel. Half of the shops will be in stores that are located in markets with a Gilda’s Group clubhouse.
The first clubhouse was launched two years ago in New York; the second was opened in June in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Clubhouses are scheduled to bow by early 1998 in Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, and Moline, Ill., Connolly said.
Also on Sears’ agenda: plans to benefit Gilda’s Club by marketing a seven-inch, plush snowman figure between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Connolly estimated Sears would raise $250,000 with the sale of the snowmen.