Holiday Central

'Retail Rebate' for Stimulus-Check Shoppers

What would you do with $600? If you're an American making $75,000 or less, you'll be receiving a rebate check in that amount by the end of May. Spend that payout on groceries at Kroger or Supervalu and those stores plan to give you some extra cash on top of that government money.

These retailers are billing the payouts as the private sector's version of the government's economic stimulus plan.

In reality, they are also hoping to give an immediate boost to the amount of cash on their balance sheets, while also picking up store traffic and an eventual sales boost when the gift cards are cashed in.

On Thursday, CNBC was the first to report that Supervalu -- which owns Alberstons, Acme and other grocers -- is offering shoppers $30 extra for every $300 worth of their rebate checks that they trade in for a gift card. The program launches May 2, even though most rebate checks won't be mailed out until mid-May.

For consumers, the fact that food inflation is as high as it is right now makes having extra cash to spend on groceries that much more valuable. If shoppers do spend their rebate checks, instead of saving them or using them to pay down debt, then they will most likely spend them on necessities like food.

That said, I'm waiting to hear what Wal-Mart Store and Best Buy offer consumers as an incentive to spend. That could be a game changer for shoppers who are planning on a splurge.

Sears Holdings was the first store to announce a stimulus program. Stay tuned for their annual shareholders' meeting on May 5 to hear what other surprising initiatives the struggling discounter may undertake. I'll be live in Hoffman Estates, Ill. at the meeting. Stay tuned!

Questions? Comments?