The average independent retailer, who has survived the upheavals caused by merger-mania among suppliers and competitive merchandisers, now has increased his or her basic communication expenditures and efforts. Our responses show the investments in electronics and computer technology have increased, too, to work and sell smarter and more efficiently. Indicative of this fact is that responses via e-mail from the D&WC Web site (where both surveys also appeared) were 40 percent of the total responses for the first survey and 32 percent for the second survey.
As might be expected, most respondents continue to advertise and promote in traditional ways: newspapers, direct mail and directories. As noted, many have learned to communicate in new areas like Web sites, cable television and telemarketing. An impressive majority put even more emphasis on community involvement and valuable word-of-mouth referrals.Category Results
Here are summarized results for each question, along with some added comments. Totals are more than 100 percent in many categories because of multiple answers.
• Question 1: Retailing Categories
As to be expected, most responses came from specialty stores (60 percent of total responses). Of these, in-home sales accounted for 62 percent of sales; 31 percent of them carried only custom products.
Almost the same ratio of custom and in-home sales were noted by the 40 percent of interior design studios responding. Eighty-two percent of these studios were independents, the others were part of a retail outlet.
Workrooms/installers made up 15 percent of total responses. Decorating retailers (11 percent) consisted of paint/wallpaper stores and flooring outlets. The percentage of department stores responding at only seven percent was down 13 percent from a marketing survey conducted in 1985. Discount merchandisers were less than five percent of the total.
Specialty Stores 60 % In-home sales 62 Custom products only 33 Interior Design Studios 40 Independents 82 Part of retail facility 18 Workrooms/Installers 15 Decorating Retailers 11 Paint/wallpaper 33 Flooring/carpet 66 Home Centers 18 Department Stores 7 Discount Merchandisers 5
• Question 2: Annual Sales Volume
These percentages varied considerably from the last survey. Major differences: the percentage spending less than $100,000 was much higher-48 percent now versus 13 percent in 1985. At the same time, those spending more in other categories increased.
Less than $100,000 48 % $100,000 to $250,000 25 $250,000 to $500,000 8 $500,000 to $1 million 8 More than $1 million 15
• Question 3: Expenditures as Percent of Sales
Respondents were asked to report their total window coverings advertising and promotion expenditures as a percent of their gross sales.
• Question 4: Ad Budget Changes Increased over past five years 55% Same 26 Decreased 11
The percentages noted in questions three and four showed increases from past surveys. In our ad-saturated culture of 1,500 to 3,000 messages per individual daily, retailers find it costs more to increase impact and build image. Some increases may be due to inflation in media charges-it just costs more to reach desired audiences.
• Question 5: Percent of Budget per Media
Direct Mail 82% of total used
A major increase over past surveys. Thirty-six percent of the respondents reported expenditures of 50 percent or more of budget (six stores spent 75 percent or more). One firm answered 90 percent of its budget went into direct mail. Others spent from five percent to 50 percent.
Yellow Pages/Telephone Directories 71%
Ranked second to direct mail as a favorite media. Percentages ranged from five percent to 100 percent (two respondents spent their entire budgets on directories).
Daily Newspapers 43%
Percentages ranged from 10 percent to 50 percent of budgets.
Weekly Shoppers 29%
Percentages ranged from 10 percent to 50 percent of budgets.
Local Magazines 14%
Any individual store's expenditure was less than 25 percent of budgets.
On-line Web sites 11%
A new category with percentages of budgets ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent.
Radio Less than three percent Cable Television Less than three percent
• Question 6: Other Promotion Methods Used
There was much overlapping of answers in these areas.
World of Mouth 60%
Obviously, a necessity for specialty stores and design/decorating studios.
Community Involvement 60%
Same response as word-of-mouth; again, a necessity for independents. Owners were involved in community activities of various kinds from social and service groups to team sponsorships. One respondent put his entire budget into the Welcome Wagon.
Product Literature Handouts 60%
Suppliers' literature about products and fashions are a valuable tool for a majority of both small and large firms.
Home Shows, Model Homes, Designer Showhouses 60%
A much higher percentage than in the past for these kinds of customer or prospect programs. Interior design studios, in particular, take advantage of increased interest from consumers in this special promotional effort.
Newsletters 43% Consumer Seminars 30%
Another important way to inform customers and prospects used by many respondents.
Publicity Releases 20%
Consumer information that many find helpful for store and personal use. Much higher than in previous studies.
Telemarketing 8% Theme Sales 8%
Surprisingly low percentages for these last two advertising categories.
• Question 7: Advertising Plans
Do own ads 54% Plan with media reps 18 Use advertising slicks from suppliers 32 Use advertising agency or free lancers 10
• Question 8: Supplier Co-op Money
Use co-op funds (when available) 43% Never use co-op funds 40 No co-op funds available 21
Some respondents gave more than one answer.
• Question 9: Primary Feature in Print Ads
Mixture of store and product benefits and price savings 40% Store image benefits 30 Fashion or service benefits 30 Feature product info 14 Feature price savings 8
The price savings response percentage seems very low because price discounts of some kind seem to be a featured mainstay in every window coverings newspaper ad.
Of course, in many ads price savings are featured prominently along with other fashion and service benefits.
• Question 10: Newspaper Advertising Schedule
No set schedule 60% Once a week 21 Twice or more per week 15 Special events only 10 Seasonal ads only None
Little change is seen in this category from past studies. As expected, most window coverings ads are repeated from one to four times.
Our thanks to those who took the time and had the patience to answer our special advertising surveys. Your industry peers also thank you for your willingness to share knowledge, methods and plans. We appreciate the fact, too, that the multi-part questions required extra time and thought to answer.
A review of the responses from our second marketing survey will appear in the December issue.
John J. Lichty is a consultant and senior editor for Draperies & Window Coverings magazine. He has more than 30 years experience in the planning and administration of various consumer, trade and retail advertising.