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Tops Friendly Markets shoppers are about to cash in on savings made possible by the supermarket chain's Dutch parent company, Royal Ahold NV.

The world's sixth-biggest grocer will stage a worldwide sale, starting Sunday, that will drop prices on a variety of food, health, beauty and household products by at least 10 percent, and as much as 40 percent, at its 32 chains around the globe.

Among the big name manufacturers whose products will see price slashing during Ahold's two-week-long "World Champions" promotion are Kraft, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and S.C. Johnson. The diverse array of sale products includes: Kellogg's Frosted Flakes, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Maxwell House coffee, Baggies, Friskies Buffet cat food and Surf laundry detergent.

"This is one of the clear advantages of belonging to a global corporation, real savings are being passed on to the customer," said Tops President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Odland. "This is an exciting event that we believe our customers will truly appreciate."

The massive promotion will reach Ahold shoppers at more than 4,000 stores in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. The event is seen by analysts as a demonstration of Ahold's global muscle at a time when rivals are bulking up through acquisitions to cut costs and increase purchasing power.

"Ahold is trying to capitalize on its distribution and sales network," said Han van Lamoen, an analyst with Delta Lloyd Bank in Amsterdam. "It's important for suppliers to stay on good terms with Ahold."

Retail consultant Burt Flickinger III, of Reach Marketing in Westport, Conn., described the global sale a "brilliant piece of marketing," and predicted competitors of Ahold supermarkets will feel its impact.

"This is going to take a huge bite of the competition," Flickinger said. "From the big guns, like Wal-Mart and Walgreens, to regional guys like Wegmans, this is the kind of event that will turn heads and steer non-Ahold shoppers into Ahold stores."

The consultant noted the success of a similar "mega-sale" strategy employed by Wakefern Shoprite, a dominant supermarket retailer in metropolitan New York and New Jersey.

"They've effectively used these big corporation-wide sales to increase sales and market share. Done right, it's a really potent strategy," Flickinger added.

Ahold has predicted that sales of the discounted items have the potential to double during the two-week sales event. Company executives have also said that if consumers respond as expected, this will not be a one-time promotion.

In addition to Tops, the World Champions discounts will be found at Ahold's other U.S. chains -- Stop & Shop, Giant, Edwards and BI-LO.

For the worldwide event, Ahold has negotiated master agreements with 15 major international suppliers. The grocer is also allowing its chains to localize the two-week promotion to further drive sales.

For its part, Tops will reward its customers by delivering double BonusCard points to shoppers purchasing products tied to the World Champions sales event. The Williamsville-based food retailer will hold a random drawing for a Volkswagen Beetle. Shoppers will be automatically entered every time they use their BonusCard when making World Champions purchases.

A complete list of items tied to the promotion will appear in the Tops advertising insert which is delivered with Sunday's Buffalo News, said Tops spokeswoman Stefanie Zakowicz.

"There will be lots of details in the weekly circular, and there will be a number of special displays throughout every Tops location featuring the World Champions products," Zakowicz said.

Tops' subsidiaries Wilson Farms and B-Kwik are not taking part in the World champions sales event.

Tops is the dominant supermarket chain in the Buffalo market, with a 1998 survey indicating 85 percent of local shoppers visit a Tops store once a week. Wegmans was ranked No. 2 in that poll, with 46 percent putting that chain on their shopping list.

Ahold, whose stores generated five percent of U.S. supermarket revenues in 1998, has annualized U.S. sales of approximately $35 billion. The expanding retailer, which has been steadily acquiring key American chains, reported a 35.9 percent increase in sales during the first half of 1999.

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