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Home Furniture - Part 3 - Buying Group Ad Strategy

Furniture World Magazine


Buying Group advertising strategy pays off.

Nostalgia's hot, and Barry Beck focuses on the fun of North America's massive cocooning retreat. One of his most successful promotions, "Publick Notice, for the benefit and pleasure of all", grew from Beck's sensing of the mood and needs of his regional audience. It was preceded by "Private Notice", a flyer targeting preferred customers, inviting them to a sale preview one night before the main event.

Stewart and Beck Ltd. was founded by Barry's father and great uncle in l932. "Dad, my brother George and I bought out Stewart in l972, the same year we joined the Home family and, when Dad died in 1974, George and I took over." The store is located at Montague, Prince Edward Island.

"When we signed on with Home we could see that the days of being an independent were numbered, and we felt we should become part of a buying group. We're certainly happy about our decision. Last year from the previous year our sales were up 20 percent. This year we've climbed another 14 percent."

Home Furniture's history and meteoric success were traced in the April and May issues. Every one of Home's rapidly growing family of dealers/owners praised head office's advertising leadership. Monica Heinrich, Director of Marketing, put together the much utilized Advertising Planner, designed to assist, step by step, in annual pre-planning. Each aspect is covered, beginning with sales forecasts and then, based on these figures, calculation of an advertising budget with breakdowns determining how these dollars should be spent most effectively over the year. Media best suited to achieve the desired results are also defined.

Perhaps the most universally popular of Home's promotional tools is the advertising flyer, produced in full color for national distribution to coincide with strategic corporate pushes. Said Beck, "We slot in the Home flyers, almost all of them. Then we look at product groups we want to promote in addition, for example, the times best suited to advertise futons, appliances, bedding, etc., because of our geographical location and services.

"In the last 12 months we've had a number of promotions that worked well. 'Private/Publick Notice' attracted a lot of positive attention, and we also developed 'True Confessions', again with an old fashioned look. We wrote 33 little ads within the big ad in small print. People came in here quoting 'Are you saddle-sore' (leather chairs), 'the nudist colony' (wardrobes) and 'miracle creams' (dishwashers). Right now, we're running a radio promotion based on tickets to the Alan Jackson show (country and western singer), airfare and dinner before the show. It's drawing people into the store to fill out ballots.

"We're in the midst of renovating a heritage building we acquired. It was built in 1912 by Poole and Thompson down on the wharf. It's a four storey building, 5,600 square feet on each floor. They bought and sold from farmers, and the floor is worn from many years of hoof marks, the horses coming in to unload the vegetables, then turning around inside the building to go back out again. The produce went out on sailing ships. There's an old safe and scales, and we're in the final stages of negotiation with a local group that intends to put a farmers' market in there. The building will be the perfect site for our next big sale!"

Stewart and Beck prides itself on "one-stop shopping. We're mechanical contractors, heating and air-conditioning, painting, decorating, plumbing as well as hardware and furniture. For the first 53 years we were also a grocery store!" Eight thousand of the eighteen thousand square feet of the Beck's pride and joy is devoted to furniture.

In Huntsville, the heart of Ontario's cottage country, Ken Kelly's customer base fluctuates with the seasons. There's a stable population of l4,000 which balloons to l00,000 in the spring "as soon as the ice is out" and then, to a lesser number when the snow flies and the skiing crowd heads north. Kelly's Home Furniture is 9,200 square feet, 7,000 of that in showroom space, and l,000 in bedding gallery.

"In this part of the world, advertising has a perceivable impact on our bottom line. For the past year we've been hammering away, getting the word out that we are here and open and customers should come on out and visit us. Now, as soon as we put flyers out, we get instant results."

Ken was one of the seminar speakers at Home Furniture's April Market, his topic advertising. Utilizing the Advertising Planner, he's defined that 53.3 percent of his advertising budget is national, 35.6 percent local and he spends 11.1 percent on promotions.

"When I use Home's national flyers, I'm telling the consumer that my store is part of a big picture. The flyer teases them with a small sample of the cross-section of home furnishings available to them through my store. 'New looks' tell them my store is fashion conscious. With Home's 'best buys' I'm demonstrating clearly I have unquestionable value and, with the finance terms, I'm telling them it's affordable now. This type of advertising has long lasting benefits. At the end of March this year I received a phone call from a lady who inquired if we had a wicker set advertised in our flyer. She'd had the flyer since last summer!"

Ken cited three types of advertising needed to generate high ticket sales, "foundation, preservation, and hook". Foundation advertising is usually generic, and involves store signage, delivery truck signage, sponsoring local hockey teams, highway billboards, signs in the local arena and placemats in the town's most popular restaurant. National flyers fall in the preservation category. Ken's "hook ads" convey a sense of urgency, preferred customer sales, no PST/GST (PST is the Ontario Provincial Sales Tax of 8%, and GST is the Federal Goods and Services Tax of 7%). A recent "hook" ad that has "worked wonders, given my sales a boost, needs and takes very little work, absolutely no special inventory buys and even gives me an extra day off" headlines "Closed Today To Re-Price The Entire Store! Absolutely every single item on sales storewide." Ken believes strongly in preferred customer sales -- "This type of promotion will be the major contributing factor to an increase of sales for next fiscal year." A previous employer used such events six times each year, based on evenings not normally open to the public. Customers were enticed with a free gift, free draw, and super specials. But, insists Ken, "You need a good customer list, a major undertaking but it's a must!"

He keeps an up-to-date history of all his advertising efforts. Not only does it help him with ad layouts, but when he studies his last year's daily sales totals and sees an increase, he can check his advertising scrap book. "If I did something special that worked, I know it won't happen by chance. I have to make it happen."

Ken's history led him across Canada in a variety of retail situations, the most recent, prior to becoming a part of the Home group, in a family furniture and appliance mix. With his wife, Holly, he shares a business philosophy: " I cannot make people come into my store. I can invite them. I can entice them. I cannot make them come back. I may only have one kick at the can, so I have to make their visit as pleasant as possible. Even fun. I have to take any doubt from their minds that in my store they will find selection, quality, value and assurance of service". He adds one bit of top-spin, shared by everyone in the Home Family, "The harder I work, the luckier I get!"

If you'd like an excuse to visit La Belle Provence this month, there's the Montreal Furniture Market at Place Bonaventure June 15 through 18. It's the Market's 50th-anniversary, and exhibitors promise fresh, creative, innovative introductions. A bonus is the Montreal Grand Prix. Then, August l0th through l3, Toronto offers the Summer Home Furnishings Market. The Market runs concurrently with the largest Gift Show in Canada, with most of the action at The International Centre. Extra benefits include great theatre, international cuisine, Harbourfront and the Islands and the Blue Jays!