Kroger Gets in the 'School Zone' During COVID-19

Cyndi Loza
Managing Editor, Member Content, P2PI
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Kroger is spotlighting its e-commerce fulfillment services as parents, students and educators head into an unconventional back-to-school season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One home page ad on Kroger chain websites encourages shoppers to "return to learning & save with free" curbside Pickup (the typical $4.95 fee has been waived during the pandemic) while another ad spotlights school supplies available via Ship direct-to-consumer delivery, directing users to a dedicated "Ship Back to School Essentials" page. The destination lets shoppers:

  • add school supply kits based on grade level to their cart in one click,    
  • browse suggested items by grade level from brands including Hallmark Cards’ Crayola,
  • sort "back to school needs" by "gear," "supplies," "writing" and "tech," 
  • peruse "dorm essentials," and
  • view ongoing back-to-school Ship promotions such as 25% off writing supplies from Bic.

Elsewhere on chain websites, a "school zone" promotional page communicates that Kroger chains have everything shoppers "need to make this year a success, no matter where learning happens." The note is most assuredly a reference to the various U.S. school districts that have opted to begin the school year with remote learning due COVID-19. (Of the nation’s 25 largest school districts, all but five have said they will start the school year remotely, while some in places like Florida and Texas are hoping to open classrooms after a few weeks if COVID-19 infection rates go down, according to The New York Times reports.) The school zone promotional page:

  • lists supplies that are $1 each from brands including Crayola and Newell Brands' Elmer's,
  • corrals products by categories such as "budget-friendly snacks," "back-to-school tech," and "a healthy school year" with the latter category spotlighting in-demand items such as hand sanitizer and face masks, 
  • depicts ads from J.M. Smucker Company's Smucker's Uncrustables, Bel Brands USA's The Laughing Cow and Unilever,
  • positions Clif Bar & Co., Coca-Cola Co.'s Fairlife and Honest Kids, Unilever's Dove and Hershey Co.'s Reese's as "featured brands," linking to their respective e-commerce pages,
  • links to a "back to school meals made easy" promotional page highlighting "affordable meal ideas" and grouping grocery SKUs under categories such as "easy lunch essentials," "study snacks," "bright start breakfasts," and "easy-peasy recipes," and
  • contains a how-to video on school lunch meal prepping. (See below.) 

The page also contains an ad promising teachers and "honorary teachers" such as parents an extra 10% off select items every Wednesday from July 8 through September 9. Features in July and August chain circulars and radio spots support. 

In store seasonal back-to-school departments, ceiling signs depicting the retailer's "kroji" animated characters continue the school zone theme. The departments include merchandisers such as dump bins and Crayon-shaped floorstands from Crayola, shelf trays from Newell Brands' Expo, Paper Mate and Sharpie, and floorstands from Mars Inc.'s M&M's. 

The retailer's back-to-school marketing plan also includes digital ads on websites such as spotlighting "school zone deals," as well as digital ads plugging General Mills' "Box Tops for Education" cause platform.