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Robb & Stucky Adds Traffic, Not Hype

Furniture World Magazine


Florida Retailer's TV ads matched reality with expectations.

The future has been seen and Robb & Stucky is the future. Recently in Orlando, Florida, there was a television commercial that stated that the newest attraction in Orlando was about to open. It said, "Come. See the newest attraction in Orlando. And you won't believe your eyes.", with tremendous repetition. During one day, the commercial ran more than thirty-five times. The advertiser was a furniture dealer. The commercial promised great expectations. The furniture retailer was Robb & Stucky. They did not disappoint.

Located in the suburb of Altamonte Springs, the mammoth store appears to be an anchor for a large shopping center, not a stand alone structure catering solely to furniture. It is conveniently located off SR434 just south of SR436 to be exact. And when you come upon it... you know this is something you have to see. From its exotic exterior which shimmers in the sunlight to its beautifully landscaped grounds, you know this is what retail should be like. And that is before anyone steps inside. For that is when the show begins. At Robb & Stucky, it's showtime.

From the moment you enter, your eyes are wide open as you cannot believe the heights and the intricate attention to detail throughout. The interior is even more stunning than the exterior and the promise the commercials extol are holding up. No one is disappointed. How can they be. No one has ever seen a furniture store like this before in their lives. In the commercials, there was no promise of finance charges being eliminated. In the commercials, there was no promise of exorbitant savings. In the commercials there was no promise of buy now and pay later. In the commercials there was no promise of no down payment. All the commercials did was promise an experience like none a home furnishings shopper has ever had before. And in that simple statement, the complete picture of what would hit the prospective shopper was actually understated. No one could believe what they were seeing was possible in retail, especially in home furnishings. In this one case, the consumer was being told that this was a very special moment in time when they would see what the future would hold in the world of home furnishings. Robb & Stucky delivered.

Unfortunately, a lot of dealers don't (deliver, that is). To most dealers, the hype of selling finances is the whole story they tell time after time. In some cities, the word furniture is synonymous with "no money down...no interest and...no payments until your child's third born has reached maturity." We have forgotten how to sell furniture. We have forgotten how to sell the sizzle.

During the past several months, new stores have opened around the country. And in almost every circumstance, some kind of promotional offer featuring financing was incorporated into the opening celebration. And after the initial grand opening surge, the crowds dwindled. Some said that the economy was bad. Other blamed it on the weather. Still others suggested that it was due to a ballgame. Whatever the excuse, they were all excuses. The proof of excellence is in the longevity of a promotional strategy. And that means that the cornerstone for all really good advertising must be based on something other than finance offers.

Where can Robb & Stucky go from here? The real answer is anywhere they wish because they have not used up all of their ammunition on the very first round. Their aim is straight and narrow, as they cater to a decidedly higher end of the business. Their strategy is long term because they believe that their business grows from service, not finance promotions.

Their media strategy was built upon copy strategy. That premise was built upon excitement being the key to driving in new traffic. As they had been operating a store in that market for some years, it was important to not only notify their old customer base that something new and exciting was happening, but it was equally important to notify those who had never shopped at Robb & Stucky that excitement was the key. Thus, the media strategy demanded wide coverage which had to meet strict ratings goals per week, before and after the grand opening. The promotion began two weeks before the grand opening in high profile programming and used both thirty and ten second commercials. All promised eye popping excitement. All of the commercial positioning was program particular. There was no run of station or run of schedule placement permitted. Each placement was specifically researched and marked for the specific time period and a specific cost.

Several stations were included in the final media buy, including all of the broadcast networks (NBC, CBS, ABC & FOX) along with heavy cable. What was interesting was the inclusion of FOX. Specific programs including "The Simpsons", "Beverly Hills 90210" and "X-Files" were key. One of the goals was to reach into a younger demographic but stay solidly within the socio-econographic references the company had built its reputation upon. These programs tracked very strongly on Lance Benefield's A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E.S Quarterly Survey and have been getting stronger from one research period to the next. FOX has become a player in successful home furnishings strategies. Robb & Stucky took full advantage of this information. For the first month, Robb & Stucky's messages were where the target audience was watching.

Perhaps one of the most interesting media moves was the way Prime Access was used. In the eastern time zone, prime access includes the hours of 7PM to 8PM. This is the world where Entertainment Tonight, Extra, Hard Copy, Inside Edition, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy flourish. And, according to A.T.T.I.T.U.D.E.S this is where the audience can be reached, most successfully on specific nights. Robb & Stucky picked and chose particular programming which matched their specific targets.

Virtually, nothing was left to chance. Program logs were studied in advance to investigate content. Story lines were devoured to understand what was going to happen before, during and after the store's grand opening, again months in advance. Vacation schedules of hosts were examined to make sure the primary hosts of specific programs would in fact be on the set (there is a higher tendency of loyal viewers to watch specific programs if the full time host is on the program). Local station logs were checked to make sure that no program surprises or pre-emptions were scheduled. Local sporting calendars were checked to see if a big sporting event would take away or enhance the grand opening.

Finally, the trafficking of the commercials was completed. There were a great number of commercials which ran before and after the grand opening day. Each commercial was program specific and/or day specific. Two weeks before the grand opening, a set of four, ten second commercials and one, thirty second commercial were launched. They ran through a specific date when another set of two thirty and five ten second commercials began, two of which were specific to the day before the big event. On grand opening Saturday, another set of thirty and ten second spots kicked in. All referred to the eye popping new store.

Saturday was the key day. Often, retailers want the entire weekend to make their grand opening. At Robb & Stucky, the thinking was to hold private viewing parties on Thursday and Friday before the event and have the grand opening on the two days when people have the opportunity to shop... Saturday and Sunday.

It all worked to perfection. The potential customers saw the television onslaught and the promise for excitement, the crowds came in huge numbers and most important, they bought at record levels. They bought home furnishings without the hype of pay later. They bought the excitement.

For some home furnishings retailers in North America, theater is the key to success. The excitement of theater is translated to the retail floor. Television helps carry this message of excitement through to the specific buying public. It can project to the potential customer exactly what the retailer is really like. If it's excitement they promise, it is excitement they must deliver. In the case of Robb & Stucky's new superstore grand opening in the Orlando market, they used television to deliver the message... they didn't disappoint a soul.

Could newspaper have done the same as television? No! And for one major reason. It could never have transferred the excitement that the voice in the television commercial transmitted when he said..."And you won't believe your eyes!"

Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at lhanish@furninfo.com.