John Deere gives brand 3-D exposure

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John Deere may be one of the oldest companies on the US stock exchange, but company executives realized several years ago that being known as a manufacturer of quality products was not enough to survive in today's marketplace.

David Jeffers, manager of the John Deere retail brand experience, said during a presentation at the DMA-07 Conference & Exhibition that company research has shown that female consumers were waiting outside John Deere dealerships while their husbands shopped inside.

This revelation was particularly troublesome for the company because its research also showed that more than 50 percent of the time, a wife is in control of the purchasing and other aspects of managing a property for owners of three acres or more. These large property owners are a significant target market for John Deere.

Sensing an opportunity to connect with people and their love of the land, the company worked with design firm Design Forum to develop a retail experience that would help expand John Deere's business across all categories. It has 2,000 independent dealerships nationwide and most have not received much guidance in how to run their businesses. As a result, many do not merchandise John Deere-licensed products to their potential, such as the John Deere cap, which, according to Jeffers, is the most popular licensed cap in the world.

Jeffers said that he goal of the project was to "take the John Deere experience and make it three-dimensional."

The new retail concept, called John Deer Place, includes a large, plough blade-shaped architectural icon on the outside of the building and a John Deere-licensed product shop inside, where shoppers can find such items as a pink John Deere hat and a John Deere Barbie doll. The overall look is bright and colorful, with many different areas of interest to grab customers' attention.

To build a new John Deere Place costs a dealership $2-3 million, while remodeling an existing facility costs about $50,000.

Currently, the concept has been launched in about 100 dealerships. John Deere expects to double that number every year.

Since launching the concept, sales for service parts are up 7% to 68%, while sales of merchandise have increased between 8% and 150%.

There are also currently six dealerships that are opening stores that sell only John Deere-licensed merchandise.

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