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Merchandising and Public Relations

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  1. Youth-carefully handled

  2. Non-media promotion

  3. Buying for need is a thing of the past. Shopping as an exciting experience

  4. Avoid formality. The relaxed casual look for stores

  5. Fashion image can apply to anything

  6. Be contemporary, but not so far-out you'll be freaked-out

  7. "Tradio"

  8. Big NOW Thing is promotion at local level
These are all seed ideas in merchandising. When analyzed and interpreted according to the needs of the community and merchandising package, they flower in boutiques, department stores and shops that draw the crowds today. Here is the meaning of these seed ideas:
  1. Youth means 18-24 which is considered to be the focal point for every female, and to a lesser degree for males. Younger boys and girls want to reach this age. Older men and women want to return to it.

  2. Non-media promotion means that instead of buying advertising space and time, merchants sample other outlets. That is, they promote their stores and merchandise by means of window displays; tie-ins with nightclubs or shows; live models, strolling musicians, giveaways such as plastic rings or small orchids-anything that creates conversation and traffic. Radio and newspaper announcements can result from these in-store promotions.

  3. People now shop for the experience of shopping. The stores that make shopping an exciting experience are "with it." There is status value to the shopper in being seen in these stores.

  4. Intimacy is the name of the game. The relaxed casual scene, soft colors promote intimacy. In this atmosphere people develop a feeling of affection for a store-and for a shopping companion. The more impersonal daily life becomes, the more merchants must act to compensate for it.

  5. A fashion image can fit the personality of a store. It can be whatever the moment dictates, within the confines of store personality. Copy such as the following expresses the fashion image of a national chain of shoe stores for women. It is by Alvin Grauer, promotion executive. A point to bear in mind when reading this copy is that more shoes are sold by these stores in New York City than by any other outlets.) Copy for flyer: "You are a girl-footer. You've just purchased a pair of kicky new girl-feet. You're with it, you're in it,

  6. "Be contemporary, but not so far-out you'll be freaked-out." This is a delicate situation. Where do you stop? Is your store image for real? Or is it a souped-up version of something you think carries the sound of the Seventies? Being freaked-out is a disaster that happens frequently. It is a disaster the public relations director can avoid by studying other stores, talking to as many "experts" as possible. ("experts" here refers to potential customers.")

  7. "Tradio" means getting free time on radio. To switching-around-to trading off something in order to obtain a showcase. For example: a store makes a deal to give free sunglasses through a local radio station. This promotion, including the name of the donor store, receives spot announcements during the day. The local radio station is pleased to be able to make an offer of a free gift to the public; the store has a showcase-air time-without resorting to the tired device of advertising. Both radio station and store are getting their message across, effectively.

  8. Big NOW Thing is promotion at local level. The possibility of easy things, such as spending money on advertising and having it work, has been exhausted. Local promotion can include an artist doing fashion sketches of customers; rock groups, a Spanish guitarist at lunch hour; free buttons and posters with a dominant theme. Mr. Grauer has used "love" buttons and ladybug pins among other giveaways. Promotions should not be scheduled for peak days. The right time is just before a peak day, or peak period. Local promotions cause conversation; this is worth a thousand ads. Music and crowds draw passers-by into a store.
These seed ideas can be applied to any form of merchandising. Another seed idea is contained in a statement by the president of one of the world's largest stores, Macy's, New York: "I can safely predict (in the next century) that we will all be selling ideas rather than items in our advertising (and promotion). We will be offering more non-merchandise reasons for coming to our stores to shop. This form of selling, of course, is as old as the medicine man, but it has taken a sophisticated turn. We give you information, amusement skills-and, in turn, you buy from us. A perfect quid pro quo."

This is just another way of saying the public relations director in the field of merchandising will have more responsibility, more opportunity, and a range that is practically unbounded. It will include community interest activities and entertainment. The store will be the fun and information center of the future.

The chain of shoe shops for women, which uses the formula just discussed to attract customers, is a tightly knit operation, controlled from a central New York office. There are 3000 stores-all titled "fashion specialty shoe stores," and the managers of these stores are hired by New York, and the window decoration is dictated by New York. At the same time each of the 3000 stores will feature a specific shoe, arranged in a specific way in its window. In all, this shoe chain has 600 windows, compared with Macy's 70. Its public relations director, has a work force of twenty-five people, including window trimmers. Promotion outlets are:
  1. windows

  2. advertising

  3. local radio

  4. customer contests

  5. Internal sales contests

  6. In-store devices to attract attention to the store, as described: artists, strolling musicians, rock groups, giveaways.
This merchandising operation is part of a large operation which includes a factory that manufactures men's shoes; the women's shoe chain; another chain of 900 stores-500 of them selling men's shoes and 400 selling "family shoes"-and a discount chain operating leased shoe departments in discount stores. Each chain is run independently of the others with its own public relations (or promotion) director.

Another fast-growing type of business, in food and clothing particularly, is the franchise operation. The public relations involved in a franchising operation is directed toward building the name and reputation of the franchiser rather than toward traffic for individual stores. A central theme, a core image is established. Whether the business is ice cream, fried chicken or women's clothes, this is the pattern.

A store that built a name before entering the franchise operation is Paraphernalia. The original shop, owned and run by the corporation, was on upper Madison Avenue in New York. There, the British import/in-fashion look was established both by the clothes and the decor. Publicity in the columns and on the social pages, status publicity developed through personal contacts and wise merchandising of the "projective" image, prepared the way for the franchise operation.

The launching of Paraphernalia was a costly affair. The genius displayed in public relations, the "fun and games" aura that made it an instant success, couldn't offset the failure to work within a budget. The franchise operation when it came along was poorly coordinated.

The whole story of what happened-that no amount of smart public relations can rectify-is told in the following bulletin from Continental Franchise Review:

An editorial in Public Relations Journal relates to the "image" built by the original Paraphernalia president. From a public relations point of view, Paraphernalia was a success; from an economic point of view, it wasn't.

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