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Every week, discussions at Pier 1 Imports' sales meetings revolved around how everybody felt about that week's promotional advertising.

If it was a bad week, it was bad advertising with bad merchandise-and vice versa.

"We thought, there's got to be more to business and there's got to be more to Pier 1 besides the fact that we ran an ad this week," recalls Phil Schneider, senior VP-marketing.

So last year, Mr. Schneider and his team at the specialty home retailer decided to drop weekly promotional newspaper ads and turn to TV.

The retailer launched its first-ever national TV campaign in July, with spots that showed what it was like to shop at Pier 1-via real-life customer testimonials.

This "enabled Pier 1 to start moving away from a dependency on weekly, promotional sell advertising, which has been the mainstay of our advertising in previous years," says Mr. Schneider, 44.

The change in strategy has paid off. The spots helped propel sales 13.9%, to $810.7 million, for the fiscal year ended March 2, 1996, and comparable store sales for the year increased 6.5%.

Through TV, Pier 1 was able to reach a younger, different consumer base.

The medium has now become Pier 1's major one. For this year, Pier 1 allocated $21 million of its $38.5 million marketing budget to TV.

None of the budget will be spent on promotional newspaper ROP and just $6.2 million will be spent on pre-printed inserts. That's a drastic change from 1994, when the retailer spent $20.5 million, or about 75% of its budget, on newspaper.

"Price is still very important, but customers are looking for a relationship with stores," says Mr. Schneider.

"Our stores have always been described by our customers as being fun, unique and entertaining. And I think those are the areas we need to capitalize on."

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