Dillard's Beats the Trend with Newspapers: An Interview with Wade Cushenbary, Advertising Director of Dillard's Stores

Editor & Publisher, September 12, 1992 | Go to article overview

Dillard's Beats the Trend with Newspapers: An Interview with Wade Cushenbary, Advertising Director of Dillard's Stores


Editor's Note: The major trend in retailing today is the growth of national chains specializing in discount or off price merchandise in a selected group of categories. The traditional department store is considered by most experts to be in a state of decline. The Dillard's department stores, however, are both financially healthy and growing. One of their secrets is attention to details customers appreciate. This article is about some of those details.

When you enter one of Dillard's new stores, it's like entering a spacious, light, graceful hall decorated with garments that stand out because of their color, texture and lighting. Then you look at Dillard's half-page and full-page ads in the local paper and you sense an echo of the store itself. The ad recalls the look of the store interior. The spaciousness, gracefulness and sense of light are all there.

This effect is no accident. "During the grand opening of a new store, myself, the vice president of sales promotion, the creative director and our copy chief visit the store to see its design and layout. Then we try to reflect that design in our advertising," reports Wade Cushenbary, Advertising Director.

"Store planning and construction management is based in Little Rock. When stores are remodeled, or new stores built, they are made to look like the Dillard's prototype store, and that prototype can be different than what was done two years ago.

"We are opening three new stores in November within two weeks of each other. There's one in suburban Houston, one in Baton Rouge and another in Lafayette, La. The opening pieces that we do and the follow-up advertising all will reflect the look of these stores.

Newspapers' mission: Get Shoppers to Think of Dillard's First

"We would like these ads to motivate the customer to think that Dillard's is the place he/she would like to shop. It's been a challenge to the advertising department to do this, since we no longer advertise sales events. We don't have a three-day sale or a 10-day anniversary sale. It's a challenge to develop a sense of urgency without those shopper deadlines," Cushenbary said.

"This was a decision the corporation made. We give merchandise an every day low price and when it's time is over we mark it down for clearance, but this leaves our ads with less of a sense of urgency. So we try to register that Dillard's is the place for quality merchandise and strive to become our customers' regular first choice.

"Getting out that message is the mission of our advertising and we believe in doing a lot of newspaper advertising. Dillard's believes that the newspaper is the main vehicle to sell merchandise. We do minimal broadcast and 90% of that is cosmetics, supported by the vendors.

What Newspapers Can Do to Help

"There are a couple of things we would like newspapers to do. One is work on their reproduction. …

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