Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Still Important in Sears Ad Plans

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Newspapers Still Important in Sears Ad Plans

Article excerpt

SEARS ROEBUCK AND Co., Chicago, after a year of restructuring and evaluating its position, still sees newspapers as an important part of its marketing plans, Arthur Martinez, chairman and CEO of the Sears Merchandise Group, reassured newspaper marketers and circulation executives.

Martinez addressed attendees at the Newspaper Association of America's 1993 Marketing Conference in New Orleans.

Although changes are under way at the retailer, newspapers will still be a part of its advertising plans.

"It's been a positive and symbiotic relationship over the years. I believe firmly that newspapers are very much part of our future," Martinez said.

Sears advertises in over 800 local newspapers every week, Martinez said. According to LNA data, Sears spends over $200 million a year with newspapers.

"As consumers change, their tastes change, and we need to change with them as well. We are working hard at evolving to respond to those changes. And to be a full marketing partner with us as we go forward, you need to react to those changes as well," Martinez said.

Martinez outlined some of the changes taking place within Sears. He listed four priorities he sees for the Sears Merchandise Group to allow it to grow in key product areas.

First, Sears needs to focus on its core business, automotive, apparel and home. Martinez called Sears "an organization adrift that needed to clarify, simplify and focus." Restructuring plans are under way for those three core businesses.

Second, Sears needs to position itself clearly as a compelling place to shop for its target customer.

"There are two words in that statement that were very new to Sears, and that was the notion of the target customer," Martinez said. "For many years we believed we could be all things to all people and as a result lost focus."

Third, Sears needs to become more market-focused in how the customer is targeted, and how they beat competition.

"The days of the one-size-fits-all national marketing strategy is gone," he said.

Lastly, Sears is on a relentless and continuous pursuit of expense reduction. While restructuring has addressed part of the problem of an excessive expense structure, it is an ongoing process, Martinez said.

Expenses need to be reduced for two reasons: to improve its financial performance and shareholder value, and also allow the retailer to compete more effectively.

Sears core businesses are all being repackaged and put back out in front of its target customer, who is female, typically a time-poor homeowner and mother with a job, not a career, and a median family income of $35,000. She is not "a slick chick with a briefcase," but she is the family decision maker.

Sears' apparel business, one of the company's "best kept secrets," last year represented 26% of its revenues and 60% of its profits. Stores are clearing space to devote more to the apparel line and present it in a more appealing fashion. Sears also plans to expand its accessory, jewelry and cosmetics lines.

Young & Rubicam, a New York advertising agency, has been hired to handle a new apparel advertising campaign that will launch in September. Even before the full impact of new space allocation, new presentation of product and new marketing, the apparel business saw an 18% increase in May.

"It is very clear that it is a powerful business on a fast track indeed," Martinez said, adding that he expected more increases this month.

The home business is made up of furnishing, home improvement, and home appliances and electronics. …

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