ShopKo Stores, the discount chain with 167 stores stretching from the Midwest into the Pacific Northwest, has evolved into a thriving store format by combining name brands with low prices. Along with Kohl's Department Stores, a rival chain, it has taken customers away from traditional retailers and stolen the affection of Wall Street.
A new $12 million effort-ShopKo's largest ever-breaks next week with six brand-image spots pitching its stores as a clean, neat and easy-to-shop environment.
Tagged "Neat stuff. Neat store," the spots created by Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., humorously feature employees measuring the space between towels and rushing around tidying up. The neater image also is being applied to the chain's other marketing communications, including a new typeface and fewer products featured in its weekly newspaper inserts.
The simplification carries through to other shopping features such as multiple clothing labels to make sizes easier to find, and ShopKo is also guaranteeing an ample supply of on-sale items for the entire week.
The ad effort follows ShopKo's own housecleaning. In a management shake-up five years ago, the chain abandoned some offerings in favor of new ones, such as ready-to-assemble furniture. The strategy appears to be paying off as ShopKo reports strong same-store sales, rising 6.9% in January.
"They are giving Penney's fits," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report.
A second effort is also under way, with plans afoot to expand Pamida, a 147-store chain with units located in small towns. ShopKo bought Pamida Holding Co. last July.
ShopKo hopes the neater image will help differentiate itself in an increasingly competitive market. Retailers have long believed customers stick with certain stores for reasons usually related to income levels. But the popularity of stores such as Target or The Gap's Old Navy unit have turned that theory on its head.
"We all share some of the same customers," said Terry McDonald, senior VP-marketing and communications at ShopKo.
In one ShopKo spot, an employee races through the store with eyes shifting right and left. Then he finds a piece of glassware sitting upside down on a table. Later, it's revealed the store manager is timing him to see how long it takes to find the out-of-place item. In another execution, it appears a man is carefully taking measurements for a construction project, but it's actually a Shopko employee measuring the space between towels on display. Yet another spot shows a woman with screaming children who calm down when they go through the store's aromatherapy aisle.
The new effort is a departure from ShopKo's previous strategy focused on products. The prior tag, "Your lifestyle. Your price-style," from former agency Bozell, Chicago, did not translate well over time, said Mr. McDonald.
"The trouble with that line was that we couldn't figure out how to play on those terms," he said. The "neat" word, however, can be featured in circulars and other advertising-for example, showcasing "neat" redecorating ideas.
The campaign will run in 25 markets, about half of the 43 in which ShopKo operates. Currently online with a site selling Green Bay Packers' collectibles, ShopKo is working toward a full e-commerce site by the end of the year, Mr. McDonald said.