October 5, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Still a good idea
By Jeff Rapsis

Here’s a Nashua-related news item that I found troubling.

Last month, a newsletter published by the New England Press Association carried an article with the following headline: “Nashua, N.H., firms demand money back from unprinted mag.”

“A group of Nashua, N.H., home-improvement companies are demanding a refund from Boston-based HomeWorks Media Group, which never produced a magazine the company promised.

“Fourteen companies have sent letters to Massachusetts newspapers and business groups to complain that HomeWorks owes at least $11,500 it accepted for advertising in the proposed magazine, called HomeWorks SourceBook Metro North.

Wow! It’s hard enough for local businesses to promote themselves effectively without something like this happening.

The brief article was distilled from a Boston Herald piece. Here’s the rest:

“HomeWorks President John Kenney told the Boston Herald that he would refund the money by the end of September. ...

“Philip Scontsas, owners of Scontsas Fine Jewelry and Home Décor in Nashua, said he and other business owners paid $14,000 last year to advertise in the magazine. When they did not see the publication and did not get a response from HomeWorks, the group began its letter-writing campaign, Scontsas said.”

The fact that local businesses would invest that kind of sum for non-results is disappointing. It reflects poorly on the whole marketing and promotional community, of which this newspaper is a part.

Worse, it casts a dark shadow over an idea that really has merit — that Nashua ought to market itself as a regional center of unique home design and home improvement businesses.

Here’s the deal — Nashua is home to an unusually diverse collection of home design and decor businesses. Many of these, though not all, are located close together in the city’s downtown or millyard area, regional businesses such as P.M. MacKay or Pompanoosuc Mills or Beckonings.

It’s a growing market. Homes are often a family’s major asset. And the big box stores offer good prices but not exciting, one-of-a-kind ideas that make homes more liveable, more marketable, or both.

Marketed effectively, the Nashua’s downtown and millyard areas could be a destination for homeowners from a wide region who are in the market for something different. We could even promote the “tax-free” angle to customers in Massachusetts.

Some businesses already tap into this market. Sy Mahfuz at Persian Rug Galleries has a clientele that extends beyond the local area into most of New England. So it’s not a pipe dream. It can be done, and is already being done, though on a small scale.

Imagine if city businesses could market Nashua as a day-trip destination for homeowners. We’ve got the restaurants. We’ve got the expertise. We’ve got the goods.

So let’s hope the HomeWorks Media Group debacle doesn’t put such a bad taste in people’s mouths that this idea is discredited.