An Expanding Wherehouse Shops Project

Wherehouse Music Stores has begun a closed search to find a West Coast agency to handle a broadcast creative project promoting its 600 retail outlets nationwide. If the project proves successful, the agency could land the creative portion of Wherehouse’s estimated $10-15 million account.
Barbara Lewis, vice president of advertising and sales promotion, confirmed that the Torrance, Calif.-based music store chain has been “informally” contacting shops in recent weeks. Wherehouse will have a short list of contenders by the end of this week. “The bidding is definitely closed,” added Lewis.
The client currently handles all creative work in-house and will continue to create its own print ads. Media duties, handled by Carat ICG in Los Angeles, are unaffected by the search, said Lewis.
While some New York shops were among those initially contacted, Lewis said the company decided it wanted an agency closer to home.
The agency search comes at a time of rapid expansion for the retail chain. Earlier this year, the company bought Viacom’s 378-store Blockbuster Music chain and plans to convert all those units to Wherehouse outlets in 1999.
The winning agency’s duties will include “branding the chain and [handling] the rollout [of converted stores] to new markets,” Lewis said. It is yet to be determined if the company will retain the agency after the rollout, Lewis said.
The client spent approximately $3 million on advertising in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The budget is expected to rise with the current expansion.
Including the newly acquired Blockbuster units, Wherehouse operates approximately 600 retail outlets, making it the second largest music chain in the U.S. after the 1,000-store Musicland chain. The company, which had filed for bankruptcy reorganization in 1995, re-emerged following its acquisition by Cerberus Partners in January of last year.