One Size Fits — Some?

Carole Sloan, May 7, 2007

It is full-bore annual meeting and analyst meeting time in the world of retailing, and the words are gushing like overflowing rivers.

Mistakes of the past are being acknowledged and plans for the future are being unveiled — all with the expectation that things will be better at next year's "family reunion."

High on the list of retailing's great expectations for this year is a phenomenon that basically is micro-marketing, or tailoring merchandise assortments to specific stores based on a number of criteria.

The retailing nabobs haven't yet come up with the romantic buzzword for this process — but rest assured they will, and all will affix themselves to the concept. Among the majors, two stand out.

As one of the leading forces behind this philosophy, we see Wal-Mart, which is nothing more than a humongous distribution and logistical machine, now talking about merchandising to specific store types like urban stores, Hispanic stores, and so on. But who in Bentonville is going to understand what each community of those some 3,000 store entities actually want and need?

Then there's Macy's, nee Federated, on quite an opposite kick. Word has it that there is a concerted effort to streamline the variables from region to region, and store to store within regions, to present a more unified promotional face.

That effort has been more than two years in the wishing, and still there's still a plethora of differences in just the most mainstream of merchandise. If Martha is going to be the savior for Macy's in the home arena, then perhaps….

In the home arena especially, Bed Bath & Beyond has had a particular facility for micro-merchandising — from the very start. Store managers and area managers are embraced by corporate and encouraged to identify specific needs. They're not always right, but judging from performance, probably more often right than wrong.

It's going to be interesting to see what this year brings in terms of micro-merchandising.

* * *

This space is dedicated to all those suppliers of Target Corp. that for years have jousted with the company's merchants, accountants, and others through reverse auctions, chargebacks, opening-store discounts, and a plethora of other creative accounting techniques.

Bob Ulrich, chairman and ceo of Target, ranks fourth among all corporate executives, not just retailers, in pension plan payout plans, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey of proxies filed through April 19. His grand total is $134.8 million.

Not bad for a former home merchant at the late Dayton's Department Stores, predecessor to Target. And think of it this way: you all have contributed to this largesse.

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