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Sears Canada ad BILL TURNER SEARS CANADA

By Published on .

TORONTO-Early last year, Bill Turner took a look at Sears Canada Inc.'s marketing and realized something was broke and needed fixing.

"We were caught in the trap. We had pretty pictures and creative, but it didn't seem to be delivering," says Sears' VP-merchandising and distribution. The giant retailer, in fact, lost $65.7 million in 1992 on revenues of $2.8 billion at its 110 stores across Canada.

One problem, he decided, was Sears' fragmented marketing approach. Since the account was split among several agencies, Mr. Turner consolidated the business at Prism Communications. But the creative was also off kilter, he decided.

"What was missing was tying in the creative (`Your money's worth and more') in with the strategy," he says.

Mr. Turner isolated six product categories that best identified Sears-children's clothing, women's wear, men's wear, Kenmore appliances, Craftsman tools and home furnishings-and set out to focus creative on those categories.

Prism worked with the tagline: "Expect more from Sears," aimed at communicating the company's exclusive brands, product guarantees and consumer trust.

The resulting campaign, with an undisclosed budget, included TV, radio, flyers and magazines. Magazine ads used a gatefold format featuring one of the product categories with simple copy and photo layouts. In children's clothing, the retailer offered a "KidVantage" guarantee-if the child wears the clothing out before outgrowing it, Sears will replace the item in the same size.

Sears and Mr. Turner also started an in-store "Must Have" program, in which a fashion item-stirrup pants, for instance -is designated a "Must Have" and identified as such with signs and prominent display, Mr. Turner says. "We guarantee it will be in stock all the time and if a size isn't, the customer can pick a comparable item and take 10% off," he says.

The new strategy put Sears Canada on the comeback trail. While the company's revenues stayed flat in 1993 at $2.84 billion, its earnings hit $3.2 million, reversing the loss of $65.7 million the year before.

Mr. Turner says his strategy raised sales "in double digits" and over-all they stayed flat because of the company's catalogue business, which continues to drag down net income.

Not for long, however. "This year, we're going to increase revenues," he says."

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