T.J. Maxx gets friendly in new $25 million campaign

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As concerns about the U.S. economy become more prevalent, T.J. Maxx shifts from a price pitch to the buddy system in a $25 million campaign breaking today across the country.

The country's largest off-price clothing chain continues to target 25- to 54-year-old women. The new ads, however, show different women engaged in intimate monologues focusing on finding just the right item, rather than a discounted price. The new "You should go" tag replaces "Fashion. Some People Get It. Some People Get it for Less." It is the first work for the discount retailer by Interpublic Group of Cos. shop Mullen/LHC, Winston-Salem, N.C., which won the account in December after a review.

The conversational ads, which will run in spot markets from early morning through primetime, show women talking about why they love T.J. Maxx. Teen-targeted spots will run in August or September, and ads for men will be added, said Karen Coppola, VP-marketing. Radio and online will be part of the mix, along with print. She said network buys will begin in the second half of the year.

Carrie McCament, senior VP and group account director, Mullen/LHC, said the approach is designed to entice infrequent shoppers. "Their objective was to remind consumers what [T.J. Maxx is] all about," she said. "It's the thrill of the hunt-finding the perfect bargain."

The ads hit amid a drop in consumer confidence. T.J. Maxx, which says its clothing, shoes, domestic items and jewelry sell for 40% to 60% off retail prices, faces competition from mainline retailers seriously discounting their own products, as well as outlet stores of specialty shops.

While periodic sales at mainstream department stores can be enticing and may offer a better, more consistent selection than T.J. Maxx, Ms. Copolla said her 660-store chain offers those low prices every day. Should a recession hit, T.J. Maxx would be well positioned, she noted. "In some ways, we're not vulnerable to that," she said. "Consumers tend to be much more conscious about spending, which I think bodes well."

T.J. Maxx, a unit of Framingham, Mass.-based TJX Cos., spent $32.7 million on measured media last year, compared with $31.3 million in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The discount retailer's former agency was Holland Mark, Boston. T.J. Maxx has stores in 47 states. TJX Cos., which also owns retail chains Marshall's, Winners, HomeGoods and A.J. Wright, reported sales of $647 million for

the four-week period ended March 3, up 7% from the same period a year earlier.

Analyst Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, said the chain should continue to fare well, regardless of where the economy turns.

"Coming home with a bargain in the bag is something that's been with us since Adam and Eve," he said.

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