---Signs - Market Messaging

FTLComm - Tisdale - February 29, 2000

In the modern food store information is perhaps more important then ever before. The consumer does read the labels, and checks the ingredients as health awareness and value consciousness is one of the main focus points of today's consumer.

The other trend has been toward category pricing so that the shopper in some stores needs to be damn clever just to figure out what price is being asked for products.

The Tisdale Beeland Co-op has taken a whole new approach to signage in the store that is both eye catching and conveys an atmosphere that is part of what the store would like its customers to experience.

In the picture at the top of the page and this one above you can see the new black hand made signs contrasted with the printed generic signs used by most stores and in common use in Beeland Co-op. The member owned, "your store" atmosphere is part of the homey approach that these hand made signs establish.
Tracy, from produce is the crafter of these signs that she creates on small black board signs. The store has replaced most of its display shelving with new modular wood units and the wood framed black boards seem almost a part of the design.

Being able to suggest more then one level of messaging is the hallmark of good information and Tracy's signs are cleverly created to not only cat the eye of the shopper but they have a little humour and a lot of creativity to make them interesting and memorable.

In this simple sign that advertises a special on bagels Tracy has not only illustrated three bagels on her sign but then went on to use mini-bagels as part of the lettering for the words and numbers in the sign.

The individuality of every sign demands that the shopper check the sign out rather then just scan for a price so that even as a marketing and advertising tool these signs
go a step further then just
giving the shopper the price but call attention to the product as well, including emphasising the individual merits of the article.

On the right and below we can see these signs as they high light the products in the area but also establish an attitude and atmosphere all on their own that is both in keeping with the store's philosophy but with the conduct of the staff in the store. Many retail outlets would give anything for something that will give their staff a lift from the often mundane work of retail sales and working in a cheerful atmosphere where the individual creativity of the staff is celebrated has got to
be a big step in creating a cheerful pleasant work atmosphere but promotes this cheerfulness and optimism to the customer as well who will appreciate visiting and shopping in such an environment.

Larry Parks, general manager of Beeland Co-op says that they signs are so successful and add so much to the other displays and attractive setting that the store is developing, that they are going to expand the project with a whole range of additional signs being added so that through out the store these hand crafted information and advertising markers adorn all food retail areas.

As Mr. Parks and I chatted about the signs and the range of ideas such signs convey I found myself thinking back to the chalk on black board signs in the Co-op store I worked in when I was a fourteen year old and Larry told me that he too worked in a co-op when he was fourteen. I was paid 50 cents an hour in and he almost a decade later was paid 98 cents.

But looking at these signs and the tradition of food marketing I can remember in Dodd's store in Kennedy or George Moore's store in Langbank or the Hudson Bay trading post at Habay Assumption, Tracy's signs would have been in place in any of those stores and the atmosphere of service and genuine warmth goes right along with those signs.

It was Gerry Bonar's plan to become a big time business man by being a store keeper in the hamlet of Kelso in the early 50s. He bought the store from the retired Mr. Porter and did his best to
do what general store owners did in that
post war era. Gerry knew his customers and cherished the kids who came in to gathered up a bag of eggs or sugar to take home to mom.

It had been a wet rainy spring and the movie Treasure Island was playing eight miles away in Wawota. The road down the meridian was terrible and despite my pleading, my father was not about to attempt the journey to see a pirate movie. But, Gerry Bonar was up to the challenge and he and Vern Hamliton and little Tim Shire set off to the movie that rainy night. Long John Silver was scary and there was an ice cream cone at Warniac's cafe before the nasty journey back to Kelso.

Signs make you remember things, good things, about store keepers who cared.