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Retail Ad Circulars Reveal Top Marketing Trends

Retail Ad Circulars Reveal Top Marketing Trends

One of the best things about retail is transparency. Company strategies play out in plain sight in stores. The same is true of retail advertising, which lays out marketing directions for all to see.

Nothing is more transparent and ubiquitous than the print circular, and comparing these across a wide range of retailers can answer lots of questions. Which retailers publish the most circulars? Which are doing the biggest jobs with private label advertising? How do supermarket ad strategies compare to those of retailers from other channels?

Answers to these kinds of questions are possible from data now being reported by ECRM, which operates a MarketGate Ad Comparisons program. The latest findings appear on the accompanying pdf, which also marks the debut of SN’s new Data Points page. This page will present illuminating information about the industry from a variety of sources, so keep checking back.

While print isn’t the newest or sexiest part of the ad market, it’s still quite relevant to retailer strategies, according to ECRM’s Tom Pirovano, vice president of Industry Insights, and Scott Whalley, director of Ad Comparisons, who outlined trends for me.

ECRM has capabilities to collect and analyze ads covering a wide range of retailers in hundreds of markets in the U.S. and Canada. It also publishes a weekly advertising blog called Circular Logic. Here are three key insights from the recent ECRM data:

• Chicago Fuels Deal Ads: Jewel-Osco ranks as the supermarket company running the most ad circulars (99) in the 12 months ended Dec. 12, 2010 (see table on the pdf). This production outpaced that of a number of Safeway banners, which each had 87. Jewel-Osco’s lead says a lot about the promotional nature of retail in Chicago, which is the top high-low market in terms of percent of volume sold on deal, Pirovano said.

• Wal-Mart Gets Promotional: Wal-Mart’s EDLP culture might give the impression that the giant discounter doesn’t have the need to keep pumping out new ad circulars. But the retailer is actually fairly active on the circular front, with some 42 distributed over the past year, according to ECRM.

During this back-to-school season, in fact, Wal-Mart had new printed circulars in the market for five weeks in a row. It’s also increasingly been taking a new ad tack by cross-merchandising items together from different categories under single price points, Whalley noted. “It’s telling consumers what they can get for a particular dollar amount,” he said.

• PL Defines Ads: Private label marketing looms large in circular ads, but retailers are taking very different approaches. Not surprisingly, private label-centric operators are putting their ads where their assortments are.

Store labels represent 64% of ads for Aldi and 60% for Fresh & Easy, according to ECRM. On the other side of the spectrum, retailers with the lowest shares of this advertising include Price Chopper (6%), Dierbergs (7%) and Shop ‘N Save (8%).

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