Retail Intervention? For WHOM?

I'm betting you've seen the new TJ Maxx / Marshalls TV ads with the 'Retail Interventions'. Yes?No? You can see one here. It's funny, I'll give you that. (Funnier yet when I realized that the name of the friend in one of the two ads who gets the intervention is 'Tracy' - my friend Tracey is a shoppoholic extraordinaire AND contributes to the TJ Maxx/Home Goods blog as a shopping expert.) But like mom always said, "It's only funny until someone gets hurt!"

The ad agency for TJ's expounds on the psychology behind the ad campaign here. And while I certainly understand a business wanting to a) convert customers from other retailers to their own, and b) assure them that they are smart and getting excellent value by shopping with said business, I have a serious issue with this campaign.

That issue is the attack on small boutiques, which are presented in the ad as price-gouging sharks intent on selling you anything and everything they can with no scruples whatsoever. It's not just a 'shop here, we're better' ad. No, it's more than that. It's taking pock shots at the competition based on a twisted perspective.

Sweeping generalizations often do that - sweep generally - and this ad is a prime example. Who cares if your small business is a fourth-generation family-owned shop on Main Street that has contributed to the tax base that keeps the small burg alive? Or an independent merchant that stocks & sells locally produced products, keeping other small businesses IN business by giving them an outlet to sell (and grow into larger businesses that will employ people in the community and pay taxes)? Doesn't matter - in this ad, consumers are told that you are cheating them because you overprice your merchandise. All boutiques do, didn't you know that? Silly girl. Come to TJ Maxx and save your dollars, but look like a million.

Doesn't matter that TJ Maxx is building stores outside of your own community, stealing consumer and tax dollars that keep your town's economy alive and pay for police, emergent care, etc. And it doesn't matter that when this campaign really does affect people's shopping decisions and they stop heading to main street to drive an hour to the supermall instead, those small town shops will inevitably close. They'll sell their merchandise for pennies to auction houses, who disperse them to other retailers....like TJ Maxx and Marshalls. Oh yeah, these are real bargains, folks. Maybe this is TJ's way of ensuring their chain of supply won't dry up, I don't know. But it's wrong.

I have to wonder this: Those ad execs who dreamed this campaign up? The TJ Maxx bigwigs who approved it? Where do THEY shop? Do their entire wardrobes and homes consist of items purchased only at their stores? Not on your life. They've got designer stashes from trendy boutiques - the very ones they slam in the commercial. Mmm Hmmmmm. This is a 'do as I say, not as I do' line of bologna, my friends. Psychobabble hogwash masquerading as wanting to help you.

I'll admit, I've shopped at TJ's and Marshalls and Ross stores. But as an advocate for independent merchants, a consultant to many small 'main street' businesses, and a business owner myself, I am ending that practice right now. I can't continue to support this company with my dollars when they are on a rampage against the people I see working so incredibly hard to not just survive but thrive in this economy. For me, it's not just about your dollar or 'value'. It's about your VALUES. I'm supporting the 3/50 Project through my hometown merchants, thank you very much. That's MY retail intervention!

2 comments:

  1. agree, agree, agree the ad makes it sound like small retailers don't know how to buy or present a good value and hey! I never got a nice bag like that at TJMax.Heidi

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  2. Interesting -- these commercials always bothered me, for similar reasons. I mean, sure, sometimes it makes more sense to find a less expensive option, but I also don’t like the implication that there’s something wrong with me for the way I shop. Personally, I don’t enjoy shopping to begin with, and I tend to be very affected by my shopping environment. At all the TJs, Marshalls’, and Ross’ I’ve shopped at, the stores are typically quite messy and the service is quite poor. So I don’t shop at any of them anymore, mainly because I’d always leave feeling so high-strung. I’d much rather spend my time and money in a smaller shop or boutique where the prices might be higher, but with an organized store and a knowledgeable staff, I’m also more likely to end up with exactly what I need (and not what I want on a whim because it’s cheap), without feeling exhausted in the end.

    But on top of that, I live in an area of Maryland that has been and continues to develop at a breakneck pace; we have lots of people moving in, but the community has had trouble keeping up with the demand for housing, shopping and food. What we’ve ended up with are strip malls littering our main roadways, filled with primarily chain stores and restaurants. The traffic is terrible and real estate prices are overinflated. And because of the imbalance between franchise businesses/discount stores and independently-owned businesses, it seems almost impossible for the small businesses -- even the really good ones -- to last; they’re simply overshadowed.

    So I’m with you: I’d rather support local businesses as much as I can, even if it means spending a little bit more, and keep all of my dollars in the county (esp. since so many of the local business owners constantly support community projects and events), instead of sending them off to line the pockets of corporate giants who wouldn’t otherwise know where to find our town on a map.

    Sarah

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my take on retail visual design:

"The thing is, retail design is driven by psychology. It is by manipulating space, visuals, lighting, sound, smell, and mood that we influence customers to enter, stay, browse, buy, and return. It is an endless exercise in change, endurance, growth, education, and imagination that enables retailers to stay on top of their game and at the forefront of their customer's minds. Yes, what you sell IS important - but even the very best merchandise won't sell at full price if it's presented in torn boxes on dirty shelves in a store that is too crowded to turn around in. Visual impact is a huge part of business, and utilizing the principles that have been proven to work can help you build a better business." ~ DWK