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Opening the Curtains to DR

4 Mar, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response

"We thought that we could tell a story without spotlighting item and price and asking customers to buy," says Alan Gladstone, founder and CEO of Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Anna's Linens, a privately-owned nationwide specialty retail chain in the domestics and home furnishings market, about a TV ad campaign from the not-too-distant past. "The ads were more about branding, and while they were good for my ego, they were not good for the cash registers. Recently, we returned to our bread and butter. We did a commercial highlighting 400-thread count, all-cotton sheets as the 'deal of the century' — $24.99. We sold 75,000 units across 250 stores — it was the biggest sheet event we'd ever had."

Then, as Gladstone is wont to do, he credits the company’s direct response media mix of TV and print with the campaign’s success. “The TV media buy was unbelievable, but we never would have had that kind of response with just print or just TV,” he contends. “Both worked — we measure response, and based on what we saw, whenever the shopper got the circular or saw the commercial, they didn’t wait to come in. We could have sold three times as many if we had the stock.”

Anna’s Linens has found such success common in recent years. Founded in 1987, with the first store opening in Baldwin Park, Calif., in early 1988, the housewares retailer has seen consistently strong growth since the turn of the century. The company survived a restructuring bankruptcy in the early 1990s, but still had only 57 California-based stores in 2000. Today, that number tops 250 in 18 states.

Through it all, Anna’s Linens has always been a family affair. Gladstone named the store after his mother (and her picture appears in each store to this day, even though she passed away in 2003), and his children are long-time key executives in the company. Son Scott Gladstone is the retailer’s chief operations officer and daughter Carie Doll is its chief merchandising officer.

While the company began marketing using print circulars — for 18 years, direct print accounted for 100 percent of Anna’s Linens’ marketing spend — it added TV in 2006 and began beefing up its Web site,, around the same time. Adding TV and Web to its marketing mix helped boost Anna’s Linens direct campaigns to a new level.

“We needed to expand the awareness of Anna’s,” Gladstone says. “TV has broadened our reach. We track every sale by zip code, and since we went to TV, our reach is wider. At the same time, the Internet is our fastest growth vehicle. It’s seen ridiculous increase levels, but I still think it’s underutilized. We’re funding it, but I am still surprised at how many states we sell via the Web that have no Anna’s locations.”

However, direct response isn’t only working for Anna’s Linens across TV, print and online media. It’s also providing new products for the retailer to sell, as the company’s stores now stock and highlight a bevy of As Seen on TV products, a sector that Gladstone calls “our biggest growth area in stores last year.”

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