Big news is coming for Canadian point collectors.
Empire, the parent company of nearby grocery chains such as Sobeys, FreshCo, and Western Canada-Exclusive Safeway, has announced that it is Achieve a partnership in the Visual + Loyalty program And putting their longtime loyalty partner Air Miles in the pasture.
With the rise in grocery prices in the face of inflation, this change comes at an auspicious time. Let’s take a look at what we know so far.
Goodbye, Air Miles
Let’s face it: the Air Miles program has certainly seen better days. Even a seasoned maximizer can have a hard time capturing the value of a tedious program that has recently lost its partnership with huge clients such as Lowe’s and LCBO.
The confusing split between Dream Miles and Cash Miles, the shrinking pool of redemption partners, and the Byzantine redemption regulations and controls, along with multiple continuous devaluations, have done a lot of damage to the Air Miles brand image.
Only time will tell whether the program will be restored, but the fact that Sobeys’ owners have decided to eliminate them altogether in early 2023 and have invested their own money in Scene + does not bode well.
Why would Sobeys choose View + as a program though?
According to a business column in The Globe and Mail, 53% of Canadians use Scene + at least once a week, which is surprising to me. Clearly, in the wake of the epidemic reopening, Canadians have literally turned to classic entertainment, such as watching movies.
If you, like me, endure the switchover (if not enjoy) of the new Scene + program from Scotia Rewards, you will notice that at least the new IT infrastructure has undergone a transformation and improved functionality, not always recording points correctly.
In contrast to the up-to-date Air Miles app and its clunky coupons, it’s clear that the updated Sine + app is aligned with the Empire’s corporate outlook.
No doubt Sobis will use this opportunity to track consumer spending patterns and loyalty – big data is finally coming to Canadian supermarkets that don’t seem to be owned by Loblaws.
Sobeys & Scenes + Rollout Plan
So far, Sobeys executives have spoken out about the right approach or speed, saying they will expand the program. What we do know is that they have invested their money, so the deal is done and Air Miles is definitely on its way. However, this does not mean that you will see View + in the supermarkets of your location before 2023.
This is because the first rollout will be conducted in the Atlantic Canada trial market in August 2022, with the new program being rolled out gradually westward in the coming months until early 2023. The Air Miles card is still there, even if it only has $ 10 in cash miles.
The good news is for those who wait, though: there are often Sobes- or Safeway-brand private liquor stores in western Canada. They will now be eligible to earn Scene + points. While not as lucrative as Aeroplan’s partnership with LCBO, it does offer much better value to our Westerners than Air Miles.
This opportunity is even more beautiful when you consider that many liquor stores code 5x groceries for both the American Express Cobalt Card and the Scotiabank Gold American Express. Drink, anyone?
What does Scene + mean for Sobeys customers?
The transition to Scene + is fast, which could mean a technical problem. I know many Miles and Points enthusiasts who have personally experienced the point of not posting points correctly in the Scene + program since the switchover in November 2021, so hopefully this plan will not turn into an IT nightmare.
Nevertheless, at least we have a road map of Sobes leadership, which leads to our question: What the scene + program will look like in Sobeys and how customers can maximize their grocery costs?
To answer this first question, the only indicator we have so far is the brands that currently fall under the Scene + umbrella: select retail partners such as Cineplex, Recipe Unlimited restaurants such as Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s and Apple.
So far, I’ve probably received a handful of coupons at restaurants and occasional offers for discounted movie tickets. Surprisingly, I haven’t received any discount offers from Apple or Best Buy, but I can earn at least some points when buying their products through the Visual + web portal.
On the other hand, grocery businesses like Sobeys have a habit that you can spend more in stores, especially to buy Impulse. I suspect that an app near you in August will have lots of coupons or point-based incentives (e.g., buy three packs of cookies, get 500 Sine + Points).
When it comes to earning, this would be a great opportunity to double dip. As I said before, the Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns 5x points in all stores coded as groceries.
Therefore, you can easily double dip if you offer the option of presenting your SIN + card at the counter. With coupons on the table, I imagine it could help alleviate the pain of rising food prices in the near future.
When it comes to redemption, Scene + is one of the most flexible programs out there. You can book trips through their proprietary portal in partnership with Expedia and apply your points at 1 cents per point (cpp).
Alternatively, you can “bring your own travel” and redeem points (again in 1cpp) in the Scene + app. To do this, you must pay in advance for your chosen travel purchase and have enough points to cover the entire transaction to end redemption electronically.
This means that if the hotel you just booked is priced at $ 300 and you have 40,000 points, you can complete your redemption online or through the app.
However, if your chosen trip costs you $ 500, you’ll need to make a call to Scene + to apply your 40,000 points for a partial credit of $ 400.
After all – and you can expel me for Miles and Points for apostasy – I think a selected movie ticket might be a good choice to spend your points. For example, a 2,000 20 + IMAX ticket costs a flat 2,000 Scene + points, which gives you a redemption of over 1cpp.
I recently flew to the danger zone to see my points Top gun: Maverick. It was worth it.
Given the transfer of Scotia Rewards to Scene +, the restructuring of Scotiabank’s American Express card, and now Sobeys’ announcement, it is clear that the Scene + loyalty program is interested in becoming one of Canada’s top dogs.
Such competition generally encourages innovation in the industry, so I hope it will inspire other banks to bring their in-house programs into line and reward Canadians who have to bear the current prices of groceries and petrol.
Until next time, don’t take the Air Miles route.