Offline Advertising Tips for Retailers

by | April 15, 2020

Offline Advertising Tips for Retailers

1. Media used by retailers

The term, “retailer,” refers to the merchant who sells an article direct to the user. The peddler who sells from door to door, the pushcart merchant, the small-town general store, the department stores, and the mail-order establishments are all retailers.

Two retailers in the same line may employ entirely different advertising methods and both obtain satisfactory results. While a manufacturer attempts to reach his prospects in a comparatively large area, the retailer directs his selling efforts in a much more restricted sphere.

Retail advertising is not confined solely to direct mail and newspaper advertising. It embraces store signs, the store front, the window display, and any inducement which is intended to promote sales. In later years, it has become a common practice among large department stores to provide varied forms of entertainment to lead visitors to their establishments.

These embrace a wide range of diversions, musical and theatrical programs, art exhibitions, illustrated lectures, etc., yet they can all be rightly classified as advertising. A store in New York City, located on Fifth Avenue, where parking is forbidden, offers garage accommodations for its customers’ cars. In the garage, a chauffeurs’ restroom provides reading matter and a radio for their entertainment. For those who drive their own cars, the store provides, free of charge, a driver to take the car from the store to the garage and to bring it back again when needed.

2. Signs

The retail store employs the use of signs in a variety of ways. The small retailer uses the traditional “shingle” with his name, generally supplemented with the announcement of the line of merchandise he sells, thus:



If the house has a slogan, it is generally presented on the outside sign or on the windows, as:



The large chain stores adopt a uniform color for store fronts, signs, and general exterior. It is an easy matter for the average person to identify, even at a distance, a Woolworth, Atlantic & Pacific, United Cigar, or Schulte store by the color of the front or the signs.

Inside signs usually advertise specific products and are furnished by the manufacturers of the products.

These signs range in character and quality from paper posters to handsome and costly permanent displays of wood, cloth, glass, and metal. Frequently, they are electrically operated “flashers” and mechanical motion displays, depending upon the size of the store, and upon its volume of business with the manufacturer who supplies the signs.

In the large city department stores, a card writer and a staff of assistants are kept busy preparing special signs for the offerings of the various departments.

3. Windows

A retailer’s show windows are of inestimable value as an advertising medium. First, they advertise his wares to every passer-by. The more populous the neighborhood, the larger their circulation. The retailer can present his advertising message in his show windows twenty-four hours a day.

He presents the actual goods, which carry a greater sales argument, unless the merchandise re quires explanation or demonstration, than any amount of description or illustration could convey. He can change ins display (his copy) as often as lie wishes. The pulling power of his window displays is limited only by his location and the ingenuity of his window dresser.

Furthermore, he is constantly in receipt of good advertising material from the manufacturers whose merchandise he sells, and a judicious use of this, coupled with his own signs, gives him the opportunity of presenting forceful, direct advertising messages to the people in his neighborhood.

Business organizations that sell a service, rather than merchandise, have lately recognized the value of windows. Banks and trust companies now use frequent changes of poster copy to encourage thrift, the forming of Christmas clubs, etc.

Gas and electric companies use their windows to demonstrate gas ranges, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, electric irons, and many other things that increase the use of the service in the home, office, or factory.

Rail road ticket offices present interesting window displays that vary from a pictured presentation of the territory traversed by the lines to an exhibition of farm products from the states reached by the road. Even game and fish have been used as window displays to lure the vacationist to resorts along the line of the railroad or steamship company.

4. Catalogs and house organs

The large retailer with several establishments can use catalogs or house organs profitably. Obviously, the small retailer can not undertake such costly advertising, but he can avail himself of the services of several companies which supply stock material of this character, in the form of monthly mailing pieces, imprinted with the dealer’s name and address. The retailer is also in constant receipt of advertising material from manufacturers, such as calendars, blotters, folders, and booklets, that he can use in his mail or place on his counters.

5. News papers

News paper advertising is the life blood of local trade because it touches all sections in every community. It gives all local retailers the same opportunity for a complete appeal to consumers. This statement in itself explains why the small neighborhood retailer cannot use newspaper advertising to advantage. He cannot do so because both his actual and his prospective trade are localized within a short radius of the store’s location.

The large stores draw their patronage from all over the city and its environs; therefore, they can profitably use the circulation of the city newspaper. Some department stores in large cities have found it advantageous to advertise in the newspapers of towns within the trading radii of their establishments. In the very large cities, there are sometimes found community newspapers which circulate in certain wards or localities and which the local retailer can use advantageously.

As a general rule, the proprietor of a small-town retail store does not indulge in advertising. He takes the stand that he is so well known by his townspeople and so remote from any vigorous competition that advertising is unnecessary. This is shortsighted business policy, for being known to his trade does not obviate the necessity of reminding his trade of what he has to sell. The following story illustrates this point.

The advance agent of a circus came to town and sought out the owner of the main store, offering him the space for advertising on the sides of the elephant’s canopy.

“Why should I advertise?” asked the dealer “I have been in this town for twenty years and everybody, the country round, knows me.”

The advance agent turned around and, pointing out the door to the church in the square beyond, asked, “How long has that church been standing there?”

“Oh, about a hundred years,” said the dealer.

“And yet,” said the advance agent, “they toll the bell every Sunday to notify the people in this town, and all along the countryside that the church is here and is open for prayer.”

Many dealers feel that, simply because they have been in the one community for a long period, every one knows them. The wise merchant, the one who is usually successful and builds up a big business, is the one who keeps his name and his wares before his customers all the time. He realizes, moreover, that his customers are changing.

No excellence of goods or service can bring the retailer’s enterprise and his wares to the active attention of so large an interested circle as can he reached through advertising of the right sort.

Some retailers in the large cities advertise only at certain seasons of the year. One will see the advertisements of retail jewelers in the newspapers only during the Christmas holiday season, at Easter time, and during the “June—bride” and graduation seasons. A hardware dealer will run special seasonal advertisements for ice skates during the winter, for oil stoves in the fall, garden tools in the spring, but he will neglect the opportunity to build business by running regular institutional advertising.

6. Department store advertising

The department store is essentially a big-city institution. It is practically an aggregation of a number of retail stores under one roof. Its advertising is limited in its appeal to the city and its surrounding territory. In this respect, the department store is like other re tail stores in being a local advertiser. On the other hand, its trade is not strictly a neighborhood trade, and it is not restricted in its advertising by this consideration. In the larger cities having adequate transit facilities, people will travel many miles to patronize certain stores, and these establishments advertise accordingly. Many of the large department stores also maintain mail-order departments.

7. Chain-store advertising

Statistics show that the independent retailers still hold 61 per cent of the business of the country. The chain stores do about 18 per cent, although they are the only type of distributor that is growing faster than the population. As a matter of fact, it is little understood, generally, how many so-called independent retailers are really chain-store owners.

We conceive of a chain store as an A. & F. store or some other familiar large-scale chain, but we forget that alert retailers are making chains of their own—small, it is true, but still chains. In the grocery field, alone, there are about 1,000 “chains,” that is, organizations having three or more stores. In the drug field, there are 600 chain organizations that have three or more stores.

Up to the present, chain stores have done little national advertising, with the exception of a few of the larger ones, and even their advertising has been of a sporadic nature. Before Van Heusen collars were sold generally at haberdashers, the manufacturers advertised nationally, although the consumer could obtain the collar only at the Chain Shirt Shops, a chain of retail haberdashers owned and operated by the manufacturers of the Van Heusen collar.

The manufacturers, not the chain stores, supplied the national advertising. While the effect of the advertising was to introduce the collar and produce sales at the manufacturers’ outlets, it also played a part in securing new outlets outside the manufacturers’ chain.

8. Special sales

A retailer will frequently stage a special sale for the purpose of attracting a crowd of visitors to his store. These special sales take a variety of forms. At frequent intervals, the Liggett chain drug stores conduct a one-, two- or three-day “one-cent sale.” In these sales, the purchaser who buys a listed article may obtain two of the same article for one cent additional, i.e., a half- pound cake of chocolate for 25 cents, two cakes for 26 cents.

These sales are largely attended and are no doubt profitable, although to the inexperienced it is hard to reconcile the fact that, while the extra penny does not cover the cost of the second article, no one is “giving anything away.”

Department stores in the larger cities have special sales at frequent intervals. An article, for example, that sells regularly for a dollar will be priced at 79 cents during the sale. A great quantity of stock is moved during these sales and much trade is attracted to departments other than those featured in the sale.

One of the leading retail merchants in Chicago, in the earlier days of his business, advertised 2,000 pairs of overalls to be placed on sale at two cents a pair (only one pair to a customer), for one hour before closing time, on a Saturday evening. Needless to say, every pair was sold -before the hour was up, and the additional crowd in the store made purchases that more than compensated for the ridiculously low price of the overalls.

9. Regular sales

The regular sale has become a fixed part of the program of retail stores, large and small. At the little store in the most remote hamlet, one will find, at certain times of the year, placards announcing a “sale.” This is, no doubt, as much a traditional custom in the retail field as are souvenirs’ on “opening day.” It is a form of advertising, as is anything else that can be relied upon to attract attention and draw trade to the establishment.

The city department stores generally have a regular schedule for sales, arranged according to the calendar month and disregarding whether or not the weather is seasonable. For instance, there is “The January White Sale,” “The Spring House Furnishing Goods Sale,” “The August Furniture Sale,” etc.

The small stores have imitated the large ones, in this practice, and time their sales accordingly.

10. Clearance sales

Clearance sales are usually held prior to “stock taking” and are designed to move old merchandise to make room for new stock. In the big department stores, it is not an infrequent occurrence to find clearance sales being held for a week, two weeks, or even a month in all departments. Much slow-moving merchandise is disposed of during these clearance sales.

Stores often lay in stocks especially for “clearance sales.” The manufacturer finds an opportunity to dispose of slow-moving merchandise through these clearances, selling it at a figure that enables him, as well as the retailer, to come out with a profit. Sometimes a manufacturer’s complete stock of a discontinued model, style, or number will be put upon the market in a clearance sale.

11. Advertising service

The small retailer who advertises usually places his advertising in the hands of an advertising agency, which selects the media and prepares the advertising copy, illustrations, etc. There are a few small retailers who avail themselves of the advertising service departments of the newspapers for this work.

The newspaper service department, however, confines its work entirely to the preparation of newspaper advertising and illustration. Should the retailer undertake a direct-advertising campaign, using circulars, folders, booklets, etc., he must either prepare this material himself, or seek outside aid.

Some of the larger retailers, in addition to having an agency look after their advertising needs, have an advertising manager as well. This is especially true of retailers who conduct several branch establishments.

The large department stores generally have a department in charge of an advertising manager. Very few of them use the services of an agency and those who do use the agency’s service for the preparation of special copy other than their regular announcements. The duties of an advertising manager in a large department store are arduous and responsible.

He makes the space contracts with the different media, prepares the copy for all the advertisements, supervise the work of artists and engravers, OK’s proofs, orders the insertions, and checks the bills. He confer with the several department heads and with the merchandise managers and buyers. He is responsible for keeping the advertising expenditures of the various departments within the limits of their appropriations.

He also confers with the window dressers, prepares copy for the card writers, and arranges with manufacturers for window displays, demonstrations, etc. In a department store conducting a mail-order business, the advertising manager generally is the one responsible for the preparation of the mail-order advertisements and the catalogs, although, in some of the very large stores, this work is handled by a separate mail-order advertising department or by an advertising agency.

12. Apportioning advertising to departments

Many department stores feature certain departments. John Wanamaker and James McCreery & Co., in New York, feature their furniture departments more than do other department stores which have these departments. R. H. Macy & Co. feature their china and glassware departments and manufacture a large part of the stocks of these departments.

While it is not generally known, outside of trade circles, a few of the departments in department stores are “con cessions,” i.e., the department is conducted by outside interests, the floor space being leased by the owners of the store to the proprietor of the concession. When the advertising of these departments frequently appears in connection with the regular advertisements of the store, it is paid for by the proprietor of the concession. Many of the restaurants, barber shops, hair-dressing departments, manicuring departments, etc., in department stores are concessions.

A great many stores compute their advertising appropriations on the basis of allotting so much per year to each department that is to be advertised (some departments are never advertised), and then hold the advertising expenditure for these departments within the appropriation. The appropriation is usually based on the amount of business done by the department, or the amount of business it is expected to transact within a certain period of time.

13. Advertising a specialty store

A specialty store can very well follow those plans of advertising that fit the needs of any retail establishment, with the possible exception that the copy emphasis should be on the specialty, and on the special competence of the establishment to serve its trade in that particular line.

14. Advertising a neighborhood store

A neighborhood store serving a clientele within a restricted area cannot very well use a general advertising medium with profit. It must confine its advertising to media that circulate in the vicinity of the store, such as the neighborhood newspapers, direct advertising in the form of circulars, dodgers, etc., and the publication of its own store paper.

The smaller store must meet conditions that are different from those of the chain stores, on the one hand, and of the department stores, on the other. Naturally, this type of store cannot employ the same forms of advertising that can be profitably used by the larger retail establishments, and vice versa. However, there are some large retail establishments that advertise in magazines, particularly in those magazines having a quality circulation.

Many small retailers do no advertising other than to make use of the advertising material sent to them by the manufacturers. The manufacturer sometimes pays for a part of the newspaper space, and, at other times, he pays the entire cost of the space in order to present his advertising messages to the public in certain localities.

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