Jo-Ann churns its 'super' vision

Carole Sloan, August 25, 2003

As its transforms into a chain of superstores, Jo-Ann Stores is focusing on decorative fabrics and the hard side of home fashions in its home furnishings merchandising.

The company is becoming more aggressive when it comes to being first with important decorative fabric collections, the most recent being the Thomas Kinkade program from the Braemore division of P/Kaufmann.

The collection was carried in piece goods in the top 300 stores and as cut order via the company's special order program in the balance of the stores, said Charles Domingue, vp, gmm for home décor. "It's doing well, and we're working on the next collection from Kinkade that we'll launch in February 2004."

The Kinkade program was launched in mid-summer via the cover of a circular and followed with a full page in an early August circular. Among the best sellers, Domingue reported, was the Kinkade toile.

Jo-Ann is moving from a company that has stores in the traditional format in the neighborhood of 14,000 square feet to superstores that carry the name "Jo-Ann etc" and are upwards of 35,000 square feet. The "etc" part of the name, which stands for "experience the creativity" but was known to customers and suppliers alike as "et cetera" will be dropped. "Our vision is to be the premier resource for pursuing creative dreams," Domingue explained. And "experience the creativity" will be used as a slogan in marketing.

The company now has more than 1,000 stores, and as the superstores open, one to three nearby traditional smaller stores will close, he said. Jo-Ann expects to have 95 superstores open by yearend. "We envision more than 700 superstores when we complete the conversion," Domingue said.

In years past, the company tried merchandising soft home textiles as well as some furniture in its "etc" stores, but this has been abandoned, Domingue said. "We are a component-based store, offering customers things that they can build upon for themselves: basic candles and picture frames, no-sew decorative accessories, lamp shades and dec pillows. "We're not significant in the soft side of home textiles. But we did successfully introduce a convoluted mattress pad as an extension of our foam block business."

The merchandise mix now focuses on the core crafts business as well as the home area, and the company is noted for its involvement in bringing customers up to speed with series of how-to classes.

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