BRITISH HOME STORES (BHS), THE retailer which is part of the United Kingdom's Storehouse Group, recently embarked on a eampaign to revamp its staid image. BHS has long been noted for its good quality and value-for-money range of clothing, household furnishings and appliances, and food. This long-established institution has been a big player in Britisli high streets. The problem, however, is that in the face of increasing high-street competi
tion and retailing innovations in the 1990s, the stores no longer came across as 'exciting' to consumers. A marketing executive at BHS put the problem this way: 'Not enough people get up in the morning and think "I must go to BHS". Shoppers just drift into the store from the high street. Unlike Marks & Spencer, the BTIS brand is "too neutral". There appeared to be a big gap between consumers' perception of what the BHS brand offered and the reality - good quality and well-priced products, besides the convenience of its high-street location. When you go in the store it is actually better than you expected!'
To remedy the situation, BHS spent three to four years developing a new image and culture - a young, energetic organization - and defining the store's 'value propositions'. (These moves were all part of the restructuring and recovery of the Storehouse Group itself.) The BUS brand is promoted on three platforms: fashion-moderate products, which are up-to-date but mainstream, not at the cutting edge of fashion: consistent and appropriate quality; and low prices that are attractive to mothers on tight budgets, who are by far the largest group among BHS's customers.
The company undertook a vast brand-building exercise. The retailer's goal was to communicate its revamped positioning to its target market and to attract shoppers to the store.
BTIS uses several promotion tools to communicate its new message to its customers. A chief component of its communication programme is TV advertising. The ads are adapted to show each season's clothes and can be extended to other BUS lines (e.g. lighting), lii-store 'events', such as beach parties, are staged to display the season's fashions. These are organized in stores around the country to gain local publicity and as a general promotional tool.
The BUS logo has also been revamped. The new logo is a 'more feminine, more fluid' version of the one it replaces and seeks to communicate the feeling of 'excitement and energy' that is to be associated with the brand. To support the repositioning of the BUS brand, the company had to refurbish its stores and replace die old fascias in order to reflect its new image. Not only do the iusides of stores display the new logo, but carrier bags and labels also carry it. Moreover, store interiors have been revamped with a new look that communicates the brand's new and fresher image. In-store design shows off merchandise to greater effect and'allows it to breathe'.
BHS uses advertising to raise consumers' awareness of the BHS brand. The ad campaign is also about elevating the brand in the minds of people to whom it might be neutral. The public relations and sales promotions exercises, like the in-store events, are used to draw consumers into the stores in order for them to see what the store really has to offer. The company also uses other elements in the marketing mix - product quality, the way merchandise is presented in the store, its logo and low price - to communicate its total offering to its target market. BUS has to co-ordinate all these aspects to get the most out of its promotional programme.1
1. Identify the different forms of communication that BHS uses to reach its target customers.
2. What are the key objectives of these communications tools?
3. Why does BHS use a combination of approaches to communicate with its target customers?
4. How effective do you think is BHS's communications mix?
5. What should BHS do to ensure that all aspects of its communication programme are well co-ordinated?
6. Thinking about the major changes that are occurring in the communications environment (e.g. advances in computer/information technology, growth in direct marketing), how might the retailer exploit recent developments to create effective communications strategics?
Any paid form of non-persona! presentation and promotion of ideas, goods or sen-was by an identified sponsor.
personal selling Oral presentation irt a conversation with one or more prospective purchasers for the purpose of making sales.
sales promotion Short-term incentives to encourage purchase or safes of a product or service.
public relations Building good relations •with tlie company's various publics by obtaining favourable publicity, building up a good 'corporate image', and handling or heading off unfavourable rumours, stories and eve'nts. Major PR tools include press relations, product publicity, corporate co mmunicatioi is, lobbying and counselling.
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