Hills Seeks New TV Shop

Discount Department Store Set To Spend $20 Mil.
NEW YORK–Hills Department Stores, which has seen some rocky financial results but will refurbish its 155 stores nonetheless, is shopping a $20 million TV creative assignment, sources said. The company’s advertising is believed to be handled in-house.
W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., resigned all of Hills’ ad duties in June 1997, after one year on the job. The agency abandoned the account because Hills had greatly reduced its broadcast spending from a projected $10 million to about half that, sources said.
Doner’s best-known TV work for Hills starred sitcom comedienne Brett Butler and used the tagline, “Save every way. Save every day. At Hills.”
Hills, which has been sagging under the weight of heavy debt, saw revenues decline from $1.88 billion in 1996 to $1.77 billion in 1997. The chain’s net losses narrowed from $35 million in 1996 to $9 million in 1997. Last year, the company closed about 10 of 165 stores.
The chain, however, is investing in its properties. In addition to the refurbishment, Hills recently paid more than $3 million to upgrade its inventory tracking equipment.
Gregory Raven, president and chief executive of Hills in Canton, Mass., and Gregory Jones, vice president of marketing, did not return calls.
Hills’ discount stores are concentrated in Indiana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and compete with the likes of Kmart and Wal-Mart. The company also owns several private-label brands.
Ad spending for Hills was just under $8 million in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting. –with staff reports