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How Giant Tiger is broadening its appeal

The discount chain's VP of marketing on why discount has gone mainstream

Giant Tiger is stepping up its game to woo a wider audience of price-conscious customers.

In June, the Ottawa-based discount chain launched three new private label women’s fashion brands: Lily Morgan, MyStyle and ACX Active. The lines were promoted with Giant Tiger’s first-ever national advertising campaign, created by Yield Branding.

Later this month, Giant Tiger is launching three new children’s private label brands. The moves follow a major store-remodelling program, which launched in 2013. Canadian Grocer's sister publication Marketing spoke with vice-president of marketing Karen Sterling about how Giant Tiger is aiming to broaden its appeal and why discount has gone mainstream.

What’s driving the changes at Giant Tiger?
We’re always inspired by our customer. There was a tremendous amount of research done to really understand her lifestyle and needs. This is our time-starved mom who is also the CFO of her family. She really is focused on meeting her family’s needs and she’s looking for value and simplicity. If you can make her life easier, then it’s a win. And so, we took that insight and brought it into the stores. Over the past number of years, the company has been redesigning the stores to make it a much simpler, easier, one-stop shop. We’ve widened aisles, we’ve cleaned it up, we’ve removed a lot of the clutter and we’ve made it easy.

What was the thinking behind Giant Tiger’s first national marketing campaign?
We have retail flyers that show people the individual products and pricing. We needed to create a more engaging relationship with our customers… The campaign talks to a woman’s positive inner voice that reflects what’s important to her—be it herself, her acceptance of self, and important relationships with her partner and friends. Our customers, certainly via social media, have been overwhelmingly positive . Our ACX Active line had a very body positive message that was well received. And people saw themselves—they saw real women in real situations, so we drove a lot of traffic into stores.

How will you get customers to think about Giant Tiger as a fashion destination? 
There are two different target audiences. We’re in a lot of smaller towns and suburban communities, and many of our customers know our store. This is where we need to marry our store offering, our marketing and our in-store merchandising so that it becomes very apparent as they walk through the store what we’re offering. But, there are also people who don’t know our stores and we have really upgraded our overall store experience, the quality throughout the store, and what we offer. It’s about creating awareness and enough curiosity for them to say, ‘I didn’t know Giant Tiger had that, I should go there and check it out.’ And it’s really about driving their interest to explore our stores.

What is Giant Tiger doing on the ecommerce front? 
While we carry thousands of products, our stores are only 16,000 to 25,000 square feet. So, we looked at ecommerce as a way of extending our aisle and we have an additional 6,000 products online that all have the same value proposition… Interestingly enough, we’ve had a lot of traction on the recent launch of ‘pick up in store’ because no one wants to wait at home for packages.

In looking at recent retail studies, one theme that always emerges is consumers are increasingly value conscious, so there’s a big opportunity for discount retailers. Is there a sense within the organization that you have to seize this opportunity? 
I think that positioning of providing incredible value to customers has always been in our corporate DNA. That has been the founding principle for us. I think the difference now is everybody is budget-conscious. This is not a fringe or a low-income —this is mainstream. Everybody is looking for value. We never take it for granted. We have very tough competition, so we always have to keep innovating, look for new ways to reduce costs and provide more customer value. So, yes, now is an opportune time for us to take advantage of that and expand the awareness of our brand. And that’s why you’ve seen the national campaign, and we plan to do more advertising, more private brands and more national brands at our stores. I think we have very exciting, positive growth momentum and we’re going to keep fuelling that with innovation.

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