Working for retailers in Vancouver & British Columbia.
Full of contrasts, an idyllic setting, an enviable climate, well-groomed parks and Pacific beaches, ski slopes on snow-capped mountains, and a fascinating mosaic of people, Vancouver is probably one of Canada's most exciting cities.
The terminal of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1887, Vancouver is close to the Canadian/United States' border and is the Continent's largest port, Canada's gateway to the Far East and the South Pacific.
It's a prosperous city, plugged into the future via new age economies of financial services and high technology, but with forestry and mining still the heart of British Columbia's work and monetary base. The population of the city and its environs are expected to double to three million by 2010.
Newcomers arrive at a rate of 125 each day from Eastern Canada and Hong Kong, and ten new condominium towers are slated for completion downtown. With its buoyant economy, it's not surprising that 16 percent of Vancouver households have incomes of $90,000 plus and that the median price for a detached home is currently $466,000.
It's also not surprising, when one studies relevant demographics, that Vancouver's people (and the entire population of the Province all the way north to the Yukon) are avid readers of newspapers!
In the March issue of Furniture World we reported the results of a survey of 24,000 people conducted in 32 Canadian cities. "More People today read newspapers -- the biggest increase over the past decade in younger groups", stated The Ottawa Citizen. In 1994, readership amongst 18 to 24 year olds grew to 64 percent, up from 57 percent the previous year. Every category in the spectrum has surged. Most telling of all is that it's not just reader numbers. We're talking about time spent by all groups with daily and weekly newspapers.
Pacific Press, a division of Southam Inc., publishes both The Vancouver Sun and The Province. They boast a million and a half readers each week, skewed slightly to men (57 percent) and predominantly age 25-49 (60 percent). The publishers justly claim to reach up to 71 percent of furniture purchasers with The Sun and The Province every day,
Over 50 percent of readers enjoy household incomes exceeding $50,000 with a high proportion over $75,000. Two-thirds are high school and college educated, more than 60 percent are married with home owners averaging 70 percent.
Across the Strait of Georgia from the City of Vancouver lies scenic Vancouver Island. Ferries ply the strait from Seattle and Vancouver to the Island's capital, Victoria, a somewhat sedate, rather British city.
Here the prestigious Times-Colonist has even more impressive figures representing readership Island-wide. Peter Barwin, of Standard Furniture in Victoria and Sidney (medium to upper price point), and Clicks, Victoria, (medium to lower), speaks of the Island's "geographical idiosyncrasies" in relation to media buys.
"We have spillover from the U.S. with both television and radio. The Times-Colonist is Numero Uno for us because it gives consumers an opportunity to comparison shop, take their time, think about their needs. We pick days with major circulation and find the weekend is really best, but Friday provides the advantage of extra business over the weekend. We never advertise on Tuesday and rarely on Wednesday, food ad day." Ads are full color/full page only, and each ad is restricted to a category, for example, dinettes, then bedding and sofa beds, then upholstery, etc.
Barwin does use some television for image advertising, and "Radio on location is important for promotional hype." Direct mail to preferred customers, sometimes newsletter format, is a vital part of Standard's marketing plan, "always with an offer", says Barwin, "It helps the cash register ring, and we measure response very carefully by postal code.
"We're part of the Welcome Wagon program, too, with giveaways. Our receptionist has a big box of bright yellow yardsticks at the entrance to the store. They're not easy to lose and they are functional; people like them".
Extensive networking also works for Barwin and his staff. "This is a word-of-mouth town, one of the peculiarities of a community our size. We constantly keep communications going with everyone, develop personal relationships,"
But The Times-Colonist is key. "It's a Thompson newspaper, there's a lot of substance to it and people rely on it. Even my grandchildren read the paper all the time and they are seven and eight years old!"
Let's go east now, to the Okanagan Valley and the town of Kelowna. A pretty, thriving town, Kelowna is located in the center of an area of unprecedented growth, The legendary sea serpent Ogopogo, a rival to Scotland's Loch Ness Monster, is said to inhabit the deepest reaches of Lake Okanagan, and tourists from as far away as Japan visit Kelowna on the chance of a sighting.
Doug Twohey moved to British Columbia from Peterborough, Ontario, and established "Please Be Seated", a popular price point store. "Yes, we advertise in the newspaper," he told us. "Our secondary market, the Valley, is larger than our primary market, and our weekend paper covers the entire Valley. We spend half our budget on newspaper. Everyone reads the paper.
"The rest of our budget is divided between television, radio and direct mail. I believe that direct mail has to be part of any progressive retailers' arsenal of advertising, A mailing list of 20,000 names utilized five times a year can generate a million dollars.
"If someone says to you 'Newspaper advertising doesn't work'," he smiled, "suggest they run a full page ad offering furniture at $5 an item. Just see if it doesn't work!"
We asked about the store's catchy name. Said Twohey, "Customer service is our focus and our name emphasizes that policy. When you come in to the store, we say 'Please be seated, be comfortable, we're here to help you'!"
Now head straight north, up through the center of the Province, and you'll come to the hub City of Terrace. "From here you go south to Kitimat or west to Prince Rupert." said Ed Moldenhauer, Totem Furniture. A middle of the road price point store, Totem serves all the rugged surrounding territory with a very broad variety of home furnishings.
A weekly newspaper covers the district, and Moldenhauer uses every issue, from a quarter to a half page, usually black and white, alternating appliances and furniture.
"Another weekly is trying to become established. There's good readership in our target area and there's greater longevity with a weekly paper. People go through the paper's content more, and it stays on the coffee table longer. We also distribute flyers via the newspaper. It's much better than the post office's distribution methods now; they mass drop on Tuesdays only."
Moldenhauer invests in "Very little television. With mass media cable, the chances that people will see it are low, We do advertise daily on radio, but 'never on Sunday'!"
A couple of years ago, I flew into Terrace early one morning and my meetings were finished by lunchtime. Back at the airport again to pick up my flight, I discovered that ground fog had rolled in, and the pilot was unwilling to take off. Since I had appointments in Prince Rupert the following day, I rented a car, then headed out on one of the most beautiful drives of my life through truly awesome mountainscapes with cascading waterfalls (I counted more than 30!) all along the way. However, the frequently appearing signs, "Do Not Stop Here, Avalanche Area", kept me moving.
Prince Rupert is on the coast and is a port of call for the cruise ships which travel the Inside Passage all the way north to the Yukon and Alaska. Bob Eby, Store manager for MacKenzie Furniture in Prince Rupert advertises "in the newspaper once a week or more, color, 2/3 of the back page, high impact ads."
The Daily News is read "up and down the west coast", and survey results indicate that not only the 25 to 59 group are "regulars", but a very youthful group, 12 to 17, devote more than the usual amount of reading time to their local paper. One theory, the schools discuss international, national and local happenings in classes, sparking both the need and the desire for information.
MacKenzie is the only Canadian member of the Pacific Furniture Dealers Buying Group of 64 stores. The Group's flyer is distributed through The Daily News on a quarterly basis.
Eby also uses radio. "We hit a big chunk of the market with our 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. spots," he said.
"For direct mail, we collect names of non-buyers, and we know which category they're looking at. Our direct mail is sent to preferred customers and also to these non-buyers."
It would seem that in British Columbia as well as London, Ontario, newspapers offer an excellent opportunity to the furniture retailer for worthwhile, bottom-line profitable exposure to the buying public. People with money to spend really do read newspapers!