1925 was a busy year in the United States. On February 21st the first issue of "New Yorker" magazine was published; May 5th John T. Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee ; June 2nd NY Yankee Lou Gehrig began his 2,130 consecutive game streak; June 6th Walter Percy Chrysler founded Chrysler Corporation; Aug 14th Mount Rushmore was first proposed; and on December 12th Arthur Heinman coined the term "motel," and opened Motel Inn, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
On July 18th Adolf Hitler published "Mein Kampf."
Meanwhile, in Kennewick... a local business was discovering the power of advertising.
The International Grocer, a trade journal of national distribution, published in its last issue an article describing Price & Lincoln's advertising which has been run in this paper for the past two years or more. The publishers sent a specialty writer to interview the local firm and they reproduced one of the ads as it appeared in our paper and made various pertinent comments upon it. We reproduce in full the article and the reproduction of the ad.
The newest thing in grocery store advertising stunts -- especially for the small town or country establishment has just been inaugurated by the Price & Lincoln store at Kennewick, Washington. It is a public auction sale held from the back porch of their store the first Saturday in each month. "The first one was a big success!" declared V.O. Price, one of the owners. "We are certainly going to continue them."
It seemed as if things needed "pepping up" a bit for the winter months, thought Price & Lincoln, so they advertised in their own and four nearby towns that a public auction would be held on Saturday, Oct. 4. "Have you a cow, calf, a horse, a piece of furniture or any miscellaneous article that you would like to sell?" they queried all over the countryside. They announced that a regular auctioneer from a nearby town would put the things on sale and that the commission would never be more than 3% and if the price was large enough, less would be charged. People were asked t o list their commodities as early as possible so that they could be published in the paper.
Next, a list of some of the things that had been promised for the auction was published. A spotted pony, two good saddles, a phonograph with 17 records, a bunch of Ancoma laying hens, a Viking cream separator -- all sorts of things were brought in for the sale. Other stores in the town were asked to cooperate and bring in goods from their stocks and a hardware store, pharmacy, tire shop, and others responded with considerable merchandise to be auctioned off. Price and Lincoln themselves offered various things in the grocery line -- flour, lard, breakfast foods, canned goods, etc. Altogether there was a goodly showing of commodities and everyone was enthusiastic and interested in the outcome. Said the Kennewick Courier-Reporter, "The public auction held Saturday afternoon at the rear of the Price & Lincoln store attracted one of the biggest crowds ever seen at a similar event in Kennewick."
"At least three hundred dollars worth of merchandise changed hands during the sale," said Mr. Price, "and people started that very day listing things for the next sale."
It is good advertising for the store, certainly. It gets the name of Price & Lincoln into the news items, on the lips of hundreds of persons, and even into other towns. Better still, it gets crowds into the store. Coming in on Saturday to do their regular trading, anyway, they are much more likely to buy at Price & Lincoln's because that's where the excitement is. Whether they have something to sell, or something to by, or whether they simply want groceries, they are drawn by the auction. They meet their friends from other towns and from the country and when they part they say, "Well, see you at the next sale," or "What are you going to bring in for the next auction?" etc.. They are interested and they will come again.
Through unique and unusual advertising features, Price & Lincoln have built up their business from a bankrupt stock to one that is bringing them in approximately $150,000 annually -- and this is in three years. In 1921 Mr. Price and F.H. Lincoln bought the remains of a bankrupt co-operative banking organization that had lost money for hundreds of people. Feeling was strong against the store and many farmers vowed never to enter the building again, but these two enterprising men felt confident that they could overcome this bitterness by fair dealing, advertising, and low prices.
They started by getting out the Price & Lincoln Dope Sheet which covers the entire back page of the Kennewick Courier-Reporter each week. This page is given over to bits of news about the town, jokes, local poetry, prices and specials for the week -- all sorts of chatty, chummy stuff that makes them part of their community and shows their patrons that they are interested in the little things that go on in their midst. If Tom Brown brought in the first strawberries of the season, the Dope Sheet says so. If Jim Owens caught a six pound bass, he is given two lines of space in the Dope Sheet. An exceptionally large beet, a curiously shaped egg, some peculiar invention -- all are given space and interest the readers.
Many people say that they read the Dope Sheet first, says Mr. Price, certainly it is read by almost every person in Kennewick. Their jokes are clever and amusing and the layout is always good. Specials always take the center of the page and are attractively displayed. They bring results in a volume that is surprising, especially since Price & Lincoln do business strictly on a cash basis. In doing this they also smash another tradition -- it has always been thought that a grocery could not successfully carry on a cash business in a farming community. These men have proved the contrary. They pay cash for produce -- butter, eggs, hens, vegetables, feeds, etc. -- that they buy from the farmer and he in turn pays for what he buys when he gets it. Price & Lincoln have educated them in the fact that they get their commodities at a cheaper rate when they pay cash and then they prove it to them.
In combating mail order house competition, the store advertised that if any person would make out a list from his favorite catalog and bring it in, the store would meet the prices. "If in any case are prices are higher, we will stand the loss," they said, "and where are prices are lower we will give the customer the benefit of that saving," It worked like a charm, Mr. Price reported, and many persons were surprised to find that by so doing they could save an amount that was really considerable, especially when the freight or express was counted out. The store owners had, of course, studied over the prices in the leading catalogs before they made the statement and they knew that they would not lose money, but gain friends.
"In getting business, we contribute the greater part of our success to our methods of advertising," said Mr. Price "We feel that advertising must be different, it must have an appeal that the average grocery ad does not have, and it must build up a friendly feeling toward us and our store. Having gotten the business, they believe that their ability to hold it is largely du to their insistence on never buying or offering for sale anything that does not carry a full 100% guarantee of satisfaction and to the fact that they hire exceptional help. The men they hire, Mr. Price explained, are gentlemen in every sense of the word, they are pleasant, well trained, sympathetic and interested in their patrons. They know their customers and what interests them and they are a thousand times worth it, daily. These men require higher salaries than an average grocery clerk but they area a thousand times worth it, Mr. Price believes.
The arrangement of their store is simple and worked out to the best advantage of clerks and patrons. They have the dispensed with practically all of the counters and use only a wrapping counter and a refrigerator counter and no showcases. All package goods are piled in neat, irregular piles in the floor, enabling the customer to walk in and out among the displays. "Merchandise ever in sight is self selling, easily accessible, and enables us to wait upon the trade quickly," said Mr. Price. "We have the prices in full view so that the customer can make up her mind even before the clerk gets to her."
Spending for advertising less than 2% of the amount of their gross sales the Price & Lincoln store is getting full returns that are putting them over in an almost phenomenal way. It is the clever and unusual advertising that counts, they have proved, and they are ever on the lookout for new ideas and new plans for interesting people in their store. There is little doubt that they are on the right track when hundreds of persons go out of their way to trade with Price & Lincoln. The store is located a block from the main street, down near the railroad tracks, in a great cement building that requires the climbing of ten steps to get into it. And yet they prosper and continue to grow!