Linens ‘n Things Focuses on ‘Things’ in New Ad Effort

Shoppers know they can get sheets and towels at Linens ‘n Things, but the company has found consumers are less clear about what merchandise falls into the “things” category.

In its first effort for the Clifton, N.J.-based client, The Richards Group, here, attempts to clarify the chain’s product line.

TV spots that break today on network, cable and syndicated programs use recipe language to describe the breadth of the store’s merchandise. The work sports a decorative border like a recipe card. A voiceover in one ad ticks off items in a kitchen filled with smiling people: “Music. One Cuisinart food processor. One pasta pot. One stainless colander. Set table. Open wine. Mix in conversation. Enjoy.”

The spot cuts to the words “Linens ‘n” as various items appear where “Things” should be. The voiceover continues, “Linens ‘n Things, where it always costs less to make your kitchen, your bedroom, your bath happy. Guaranteed.” The tagline: “Make your home happy for less.”

An additional spot focuses on the bathroom, while another focuses on the bedroom.

“We are better known as the linen side of the business, but certainly we offer a great assortment of merchandise that we don’t get full credit for from our customers,” said Tim White, svp of marketing. White, who worked with Richards several years ago when he was at Computer City, hired the independent agency shortly after he joined Linens in June 2002.

Richards’ effort includes print and targets women ages 25-54. It comes as the client boosts the percentage of “things,” or hard goods, in its stores. The company told analysts recently it is edging toward a 55-to-45 split of linens to hard goods from its traditional 60-to-40 ratio.

The campaign is the client’s most aggressive ad push in three years. The last TV work—from DeVito/Verdi, New York, which handled the account from 1993-2000—ran in 2000. Those ads were tagged, “All the comforts of home at very comfortable prices.” Since then, Linens has primarily relied on direct mail and weekly circulars, which it creates in-house.

Sales were essentially flat in the second quarter, compared with a 3.2 percent decrease in the first. Net sales grew 13 percent in the second quarter to $524 million. Chief competitor Bed Bath & Beyond reported sales were up 4 percent in its fiscal first quarter, with net sales up 15 percent to $894 million.

“What [Linens] fights is that Bed Bath & Beyond is on most retail metrics—profitability, comps—the superior performer,” said Neil Stern, a senior partner at retail consultancy McMillan|Doolittle, Chicago.

Linens’ other competitors range from department stores to discount stores. “I think the challenge for Linens ‘n Things is, How do you define your brand and what you’re about, given this is such a broad category?” Stern said.

Linens spent about $3 million on newspaper ads, $1 million on radio, $700,000 on magazine ads, and about $100,000 on spot TV and outdoor combined last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The company, in its annual report, stated that its ad expenditures were $60 million last year, which covered circulars and direct mail, White said.