'Flexibility' Lets The Sharper Image Switch Products in Mid-Flight

"Wouldn't it be great if you could enjoy all your favorite CD music in the shower? Well, now you can..."
That enticement and similar powers of suggestion have been made to listeners of news and personality radio stations in the New York Market for the past 16 months by Richard Thalheimer, founder of The Sharper Image, which began using radio in May, to promote Father's Day.
According to Tony Farrell, senior vice president, creative services, radio generates "tremendous brand awareness and impact on our stores." Pointing out that, "we appear to do quite a bit better when we use radio," Farrell explains that the San Francisco-based retailer of unusual gadgets and electronic toys was not on the air in August. "Sales in the stores seemed to soften up," he recalls. "We have not been off the air since."
Radio, Farrell says, does an effective job of targeting the "reasonably well-off grownups" The Sharper Image seeks to reach. But what he most likes about the medium is its "flexibility. We have six to eight products that we feature. If there's a heat wave, we can substitute our personal cooling system for whatever was scheduled to run. And, since I write all the scripts, and Richard narrates the commercials, there's minimal expense."
"we appear to do quite a bit better when we use radio"
The only times Thalheimer doesn't voice the commercials is when the ads are running in a show hosted by a strong personality. In those cases, says Farrell, "we provide a loose script, and the personality can talk about us in personal terms."
The retailer airs regularly on five New York area stations and focuses on drivetimes. While Farrell finds it difficult to attribute sales directly to radio, he believes the medium has had a very strong indirect effect. "As we've pushed the radio, our sales have been excellent. We were up 47% for comp stores in July; and we were up 31% for the first six months of this year. We've told the financial community that radio is a big part of our plan."