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VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW

Recognition Is Sweet for Oxnard Center's Fruit-Crate Ads

November 12, 1996|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Antique fruit crate labels can bring out the nostalgia in people. They can create a warm, homespun agricultural atmosphere.

And apparently they can bring out the shoppers.

That was the feeling of the Southern California Marketing Directors Assn., which presented the Oxnard Factory Outlet with a Bravo award for advertising excellence.

The 35-store outlet center, which opened its first retail shops in late May and early June 1994, was honored for an advertising campaign revolving around fruit-crate art used throughout its center and in its promotional materials.

"Our whole center was designed to look like it is agricultural in nature. Oxnard is the strawberry capital of Southern California, so we wanted to tie into that agricultural background," said General Manager Peggy Wimberley, who helped design the ad campaign after she joined the center in February 1995.

The Oxnard Factory Outlet was among nine winners out of 125 shopping centers throughout Southern California entered in the advertising competition. The award came in the category for shopping centers of 500,000 square feet and smaller. The Oxnard retail center also won a Bravo merit award for its color newspaper advertising.

Covering 147,218 square feet, the Oxnard Factory Outlet houses Bugle Boy, the Gap Outlet, Geoffrey Beene and other clothing and specialty stores, which sell their name brand merchandise at discount prices.

The center is a joint development of U.S. Outlets of Los Angeles, the St. Louis-based Fru-Con Development Corp. and Prime Retail LP, a Baltimore-based developer of outlet centers. Prime Retail is managing the Oxnard property.

Wimberley said the agricultural design of the fruit-crate campaign distinguishes Oxnard Factory Outlet from most other retail centers in the area.

"A lot of our competition goes more toward fashion-oriented advertising, but we decided a year ago that we just wanted to differentiate ourselves to let people know that we are more mid- to upper-range, without hitting the very exclusive designers," Wimberley said.

She said the fruit-crate design has received a good response from shoppers.

"A lot of fashion ads intimidate shoppers because they are based on a kind of lifestyle, and not everybody's lifestyle is high-fashion-oriented," she said. "Ours appeals to a lot of people because it is not intimidating. We've heard the comment many times that this is a comfortable place to be."

Connie Cashin, who owns Cashin Marketing of Sherman Oaks, worked with Wimberley on the fruit-crate strategy and is responsible for handling the center's marketing program.

The outlet center, Cashin said, is promoted heavily in the San Fernando Valley and Santa Barbara areas. She said matching the marketing program to the agricultural community surrounding it helps keep the center fresh in the minds of out-of-town visitors.

"Agriculture is an identifying thing for people," said Cashin, who includes among her clients the Janss Marketplace in Thousand Oaks, the Westlake Plaza, Westlake Shopping Center and the Five Points Shopping Center in Santa Barbara.

"When people think of Oxnard they think of the Strawberry Festival being there," she said. "We have really solid lines [of merchandise], but we're not real flashy. The fruit crates help reinforce that."

With the expansion of the Camarillo Factory Stores earlier this month and continued competition from other retail centers, Wimberley said effective marketing is more important than ever.

"This is a very dense retail market," she said, "but we are happy we have all this outlet shopping that we do in the county because it draws people from a very good radius."

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