Eason hopes ad campaign becomes a real page-turner


MEDIA & MARKETING:Ireland’s biggest bookseller is investing €20m in a three-year plan to reinvent itself

EASON IS one of Ireland’s largest retailers. Traditionally the only time its advertising has been visible is in the Christmas shopping season. That changed this month with the unveiling of a new campaign: “Whatever you’re into, get into Eason”.

The investment comes on the back of an announcement that the State’s biggest bookseller plans to reduce its cost base by €8 million. Turnover has been plummeting and the company racked up losses of €10 million in 2009.

The man charged with changing perceptions of Eason is its marketing director, David Field. Previously in marketing roles in Superquinn, Glanbia and Dublin supermarket chain Fresh, where he worked with Eason managing director Conor Whelan, Field (36) says the new campaign is part of a three-year, €20 million strategic plan to revitalise the Eason retail concept.

This will include store refurbishments and renovations, new category developments and an upweighted digital and online offering launching later this year.

“Up to now, most of our advertising has been tactical. Now there is a recognition that marketing and the branding of Eason has a critical role to play in our development. We appeal to a mass audience and that is our unique selling point,” Field says.

Field’s marketing push will be bolstered by a national sponsorship announcement later in the summer. An important target market for the retailer is young adults. In the past, the company’s online strategy was half-hearted, but that is set to change too.

Field says Eason hopes to increase digital revenue from “very low single digits” to 10 per cent. To this end, interactive e-zones will be created in some shops, where customers can use instore e-readers to test out e-books.

“With 60 stores, we are primarily a bricks-and-mortar business. Online is functional, but browsing through a bookstore is a very enjoyable experience. We want to bring along our loyal customers and attract new younger customers and that’s a balancing act.”

But can Eason’s reinvention work when its main product categories are under serious sales pressure? Apart from books, newspapers and magazines are one of the key attractions for consumers. These items have been hit very hard by the recession, with the value of books and printed media sales falling 7 per cent year-on-year through March.

Though online and digital is partly to blame for this decline, Vincent Jennings, chief executive of the Convenience Stores Newsagents Association, which represents 1,500 newsagents and convenience stores, believes that newspapers and magazines are just too expensive.

He notes that more than 400 newsagents have closed down in the last two years.

For every newspaper sold, the shop owner receives a margin of 25 per cent. Says Jennings: “For most newsagents, the main footfall generators are newspapers, cigarettes and the lottery. But the closure of the Star Sundayand Sunday Tribunemeans four million fewer newspaper sales for newsagents this year.

“When fewer people are buying newspapers, the shop is not making as many sales of other items because fewer people are coming into the shop.”

Of course, smaller shops that rely on newspaper and magazines, cigarettes, sweets and Lotto for their revenue, face other pressures too – notably the growing competition from symbol group shops like Centra and Spar, which also sell groceries and household goods.