SEARS TAPS O&M FOR TWO AUTO TIRE RETAIL CHAINS

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Sears, Roebuck & Co., moving to consolidate its marketing clout, has handed the estimated $20 million-to-$30 million account for its two auto tire chains to Ogilvy & Mather.

O&M, which currently handles Sears Auto Centers, will assign the account to creative teams in several cities, including the key Chicago and New York offices. Total Sears automotive advertising at O&M now approaches $60 million, industry executives said.

Last year, Sears realigned its brands into an automotive group that includes Western Auto, a parts store; Sears Auto Centers, with 779 centers selling and servicing tires and batteries; and the two other brands involved in last week's shift: Tire America, with 125 stores, and National Tire Warehouse, with 150 locations.

More than 400 new freestanding stores are planned. They compete with numerous local and regional shops, which dominate the industry.

Barkley & Evergreen, Kansas City, Mo., previously handled the two chains and will continue to handle Western Auto.

`AGGRESSIVE GROWTH PLANS'

"We have aggressive growth plans for Sears tires, for both mall-based and off mall locations," said John Costello, Sears' senior exec VP-marketing. "The tire group is an important part of Sears long-term strategy agenda."

Mr. Costello said O&M has been brought in early to decide future marketing strategies for all three of Sears' tire and battery retailer brands, starting with brand identity and including positioning.

"We brought [O&M] in now to get the right combination of brand, assortment, service and value," said Mr. Costello.

Initially, the agency will conduct customer research with a goal toward launch in 1997.

The tire line is the latest in Sears' off-mall push. This summer, Sears assigned the estimated $30 million account for its new home services group to Young & Rubicam, New York, which handles its Sears stores and apparel.

This past summer, Sears purchased Orchard Supply Hardware Stores, a 61-store West Coast chain. Marketing plans for that group have not yet been set.

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