Monday, 17 June 2013

Why I would like to rebrand discount store Home Bargains

I'm the Queen of Bargain-hunting amongst my circle of friends. I'm not one of those people who will buy a top just because of the logo it has sewn onto the front, or buy a bag just because it's so and so a designer and therefore the must-have of the season. You are more likely to find me in Poundland than Topshop, and I am not ashamed. In fact I believe I have only entered into a Topshop store twice in my life.

I was asked recently, if I could choose to rebrand or reposition any brand, what would it be? It is the kind of thing we are asked in interview situations within the advertising industry - and for this reason it's important that you choose something that you know well and feel reasonably passionate about. For me, one of those brands is Home Bargains.

Home Bargains (HB) are a national retailer of everyday household items at budget prices. They buy surplus stock from other stores as well as items that are nearing their sell-by date and sell them on at low prices - a strategy which has resulted in HB having over 290 stores nationwide with more on the way. The company is owned by TJ Morris, who acquired store from Woolworths and Kwik Save following the onset of the recession. They have benefited greatly from the nation tightening its purse strings in tough economic times - people like me searching for bargains and stretching our earnings as far as they will go. Last year, HB reported sales of £915m whilst other high street shops such as HMV and JJB Sports have gone under. 

Home Bargains' shoppers consist predominantly of low income households, in particular mums who are looking to save money on the weekly shop. I would love to play a part in rebranding Home Bargains so that it might appeal to a wider target audience - and not be an embarrassing place to shop.

Challenge: Make Home Bargains the TK Maxx for your everyday essentials.

I would like people to walk out of a HB store with their branded carrier bags and feel no different to walking out of a Tesco or Asda. Currently, the HB branding looks like someone client-side thought they would try their hand at designing a logo and, needless to say, it hasn't quite worked out. The logo is a clashing of blue and red, in line with Tesco's old value range. There is very little consistent branding going through store, with bright yellow "Star Buy" shelf barkers bearing no correlation to the logo's blue/red colourways. Now, you might argue that a budget brand store such as Home Bargains doesn't need a rebrand to succeed. No it doesn't, as their recent profits have shown, but I think they would be missing an opportunity to attract the middle classes and increase customer loyalty if they didn't. A store selling discounted goods needn't look cheap - TK Maxx are a fantastic example of that.

An example of a store that is undergoing a major rebrand currently is Wilkinsons. They opened 18 new stores last year alone, and aim to have all stores successfully rebranded by 2015. The new Wilkinsons branding is a completely refresh of what was a very tired, 1980s-style brand. The old look was dark and out-dated, making stores appear uninviting and old-fashioned. In contrast, the new look is bright, bold and welcoming, with a new logo that is almost Scandanavian in its modern and friendly approach (similar to the likes of Clas Ohlson with the unobtrusive lower case lettering). Promotional messaging in-store is consistent and clear, with strong red branding running throughout. The transformation is quite incredible (as can be seen in the pictures below) and one from which I think Home Bargains could learn a lot.


  

Wilkinsons are also taking advantage of the online world with their new 'Buy online and collect in-store' service, competing against the likes of Argos. They have also in the last couple of months rebranded their website 'wilkos.com', demonstrating their commitment to change and new way forward for the business.

Other competitors that Home Bargains should look to are the nationwide pound stores, namely Poundland, Poundworld and Poundstretcher, all of which have kept their branding strong and up-to-date with consistent in-store marketing that fits well with the logo and shop front. These chains have done well in the difficult economic climate, with an increasingly middle class audience and a spot on most UK high streets. They don't concern themselves with big brand campaigns and above-the-line advertising, but focus their efforts on aggressive price-driven strategies that succeed in enticing consumers through their doors. We may not like the way in which our high streets are changing, but we only have ourselves to blame as we choose budget goods sold by the likes of Home Bargains and Poundland from those retailers who can buy in bulk over our local grocers and newsagents.

    

A key point to be addressed in a potential rebrand of Home Bargains is the clarity of its brand identity. There is currently confusion surrounding the HB brand and the very similar Quality Save with which you might be familiar (there is a store in Piccadilly Gardens). A quick look at the shop front (below) and it is clear why this confusion might arise. Admittedly, I thought prior to doing this research that they were the same thing. In fact, HB is Quality Save's main supplier but actually a separate company. Recently Quality Save re-branded their shop fronts to try and differentiate themselves from HB, but I would argue that this has done little to erase the confusion. And the new Quality Save logo is equally dire!


  

The company straplines also don't help the situation. Home Bargains is 'Top brands. Top prices', whist Quality Save goes by 'Quality brands, quality prices'. This is something I would quickly want to address if I were rebranding HB, focusing on the proposition 'The same brands you know and love, but cheaper.' HB could do to look at Aldi's hugely successful advertising campaign by McCann Manchester, positioning the supermarket chain as 'Like brands. Only cheaper'. The only difference is that HB is able to give you the actual brands you want but at a discounted price - it's a win win situation.

There is also the opportunity for HB to ramp up activity on their website, which not many people realise is anl e-commerce site offering low prices on many of its in-store products delivered to your door. Promotional in-store messaging could really push this by educating the consumer about its existence, offering an online alternative to having to venture to the HB store itself. Addressing this could radically expand the business. Even Primark have just given in and started trading online through Asos, proving that value at this level needn't just be a physical experience but has legs to go digital.

My recommendations for a full rebrand of Home Bargains would consistent of a new logo and store fronts, with new branding continuing in-store with consistent in-store messaging (to include point of sale, plastic carrier bags, staff uniforms etc.). In terms of advertising, trade press might be beneficial to announce the new store look and feel, but (as with the pound shops) HB doesn't need to rely upon a big brand campaign for people to notice the change. Their stores and prices speak for themselves, but could be doing so much more to generate sales and gain new customers.

Home Bargains 'Star Buys'
HB shop front - compare this with Quality Save!
 

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