J. Walter Thompson is launching a dedicated retail division with the goal of nearly doubling its billings in that category within the next two years.
JWT's North American retail billings totaled $650 million in 1997. With the addition of the dedicated retail division, the agency expects its retail billings alone to reach $1 billion by 2000, said Chris Grindem, the retail unit's director.
The new Retail Group is a "natural outgrowth" of the agency's brand and retail experience with Ford Motor Co. dealers and eight new pieces of retail business that JWT has won in the past five years, he said.
As director, Grindem will oversee the development of new business prospects and manage the growth of current retail accounts, including Kohl's department stores, Sherwin-Williams paint stores, Goodyear, Domino's Pizza and White Castle. While the new unit is headquartered in Detroit, retail accounts will continue to be serviced by the offices closest to the clients, he said.
The Retail Group will emphasize JWT's experience in brand management as well as the agency's proprietary process, Thompson Total Targeting, or "T3." The T3 process is used to examine sales data and build relational databases for retail clients that can help with sales forecasting, site selection, customer segmentation, sales promotion and vendor partnership programs.
Also attractive to potential retail clients is the agency's media buying clout, Grindem said. With more than $700 million in annual placements, JWT claims to be the single largest buyer of spot TV in North America. The agency's national TV buying unit purchases $2 billion annually, and the centralized print buying unit places more than $450 million annually.
As retailers consolidate and grow, they are increasingly looking for ways to tap into the power of branding to influence sales at a local level, Grindem said. "The retailers that understand branding are the ones that are surviving and growing," he said. "There's a whole bunch of places you can go to buy a pair of jeans, so why do you go to this store instead of that store? It's because of branding."