Sears `takes a higher ground’

The past two years have been a time of transition and repositioning for Sears Canada and the company's newly launched spring advertising campaign is the most visible result.The campaign, developed by Sears' ad agency Prism Communications of Toronto, builds on the...

The past two years have been a time of transition and repositioning for Sears Canada and the company’s newly launched spring advertising campaign is the most visible result.

The campaign, developed by Sears’ ad agency Prism Communications of Toronto, builds on the two-year-old ‘Expect more from Sears’ theme, which stresses the retailer’s focus on value, including its ‘satisfaction or your money refunded’ guarantee.

Strategically, the 1995 campaign, called ‘You and Sears,’ retains value as a key element, says Nina MacLaverty, corporate general manager retail marketing for Toronto-based Sears Canada.

But MacLaverty says it has a richer look, achieved by an emphasis on lifestyle images as opposed to product shots.

‘We have taken a higher ground on the fashion shots and models,’ MacLaverty says.

‘We’ve added music to the campaign that brings in the singing of the ‘Expect more from Sears’ theme-line at the end of each commercial,’ she says.

‘A magazine layout in 1993-94 would have had starker fashion images and smaller type for price points.

‘For 1995, prices have been bumped up in size, the images are bigger, and are more lifestyle, and less concerned about showing catalogue-type shots of the product.’

When Sears moved in 1993 from a product-and-price type of strategy to a focus on image, its long-running tagline ‘Your money’s worth…and more,’ was replaced by ‘Expect more from Sears.’

As well, six key categories were chosen that exemplify that theme: men’s, women’s and children’s wear (with a big focus on its private label brands, Jessie and Two Roads for women, and r&r for men and women); Kenmore appliances; Craftsman tools; and soft home fashions, which Sears markets as Whole Home.

Sears’ ‘Satisfaction or your money refunded guarantee’ has been tailored for each category with more of a value-added philosophy to increase the relevance to customers.

Depending on the category focus, the guarantee is called The Fashion Solution, KidVantage or Whole Home and plays a major part in advertising.

MacLaverty says Sears, being one of the moderately priced major department stores, is in an enviable position because it has the chance to tap into customers who shop in the junior or discount department stores.

‘If we can convince them that they can move up to us, and it’s not this huge leap as from Wal-Mart to The Bay or Eaton’s, I think we’ve got a broader audience and more possibilities of capturing that,’ she says.

‘We’re somewhat in the middle of the six department stores, but one of the things we’re trying to do with our new campaign is to segregate [Sears] from those who like to shop for apparel with a shopping cart and have a greeter at the door.

‘There is great value [at those stores], but there’s generally basic merchandise.

‘We have to convince the consumer we have great-looking clothes, and you don’t have to pay a fortune to look good.’

As part of the 1995 campaign, eight-page gatefolds went out in the April issues of various magazines for fashions and furniture. Each ad features a barcoded savings coupon to help in tracking results.

Seven days after the March release of some April publications, more than 1,500 coupons had been redeemed.

Thirty-second tv spots for the six core categories have been created, and, rather than buying grps, Sears has made spot buys on programs favored by the target groups.

Radio is being used as a tactical tool with a ‘This week at Sears’ format that ties in with flyers and special promotions such as Sears Days.

Billboards are being used in Toronto in a strategic manner to see if some impact can be made on sales of women’s fashions in area stores.

Each features either Two Roads or Jessie fashion and a price point to reinforce the message of quality at a moderate price.

Behind the scenes, Sears has changed the way it handles print production.

In the past, all print advertising – the chain’s 75 annual flyers and 12 catalogues – was handled in-house.

In February, however, Sears contracted Network Studios, a division of St. Joseph Printing, to take over creative execution and print production.

The move affected 35 of Sears’ retail production and creative department staffers, who were offered severance packages and employment at St. Joseph Printing.

Six people remain in-house to handle retail creative planning. Catalogue production also stays in-house.

Sears Canada operates 110 retail stores, 11 catalogue clearance centres and has more than 1,400 catalogue outlets.