WHAT WORKS: Getting a Handle on Sales

A.J's Finer Foods is helping shoppers keep it clean, and engaging in some innovative store-brand marketing at the same time.

The upscale retailer, a division of Chandler, Ariz.-based Bashas', worked with Clean Kart Products to develop a customized version of Clean Kart's Handy Handles in elegant black and emblazoned with the chain's logo.

The item wraps around a shopping cart's handle and fastens with industrial-strength Velcro, to protect the shopper/user from germs, especially when eating food samples. With the AJ's logo, it also advertises the store, even when used elsewhere. The simple device retails for $7.99 and makes a profit, according to the retailer.

Handy Handles are made from high-quality cotton materials, according to AJ's, with a layer of stain repellent embedded underneath. It's 100 percent machine washable, and folds up to fit in a pocket or purse, making it reusable at any store with shopping carts.

"The Handy Handle provides a convenient alternative for AJ's health-conscious shoppers," said Jessica Paolangeli, nonfoods buyer at the AJ's store at 7131 West Ray Road in Chandler, Ariz. "It's a unique and cost-effective product invented with the customer's needs in mind. AJ's is happy to go above and beyond for our customers, and we are pleased to carry the Handy Handle in our store."

Customers at AJ's have commented on the comfort and protection they feel shopping with a Handy Handle.

"I love that AJ's has taken a stand against cart germs and is making me feel like my family and I are important to them," said Jackie Gelbricht.

Vanessa Goldberg noted, "I normally [didn't] shop AJ's, but I do now with my Handy Handle, since they obviously care more about their shoppers' health than other stores do."

"I think it's a great concept and I use my AJ's Handy Handle everywhere -- it's made me aware of germs, and when I forget mine, I'll drive back home to get it," observed Stevie Johnston.

-- Bridget Goldschmidt
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