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Federated creates brand new home business plan

Brent Felgner -- Home Textiles Today, October 21, 2002

Federated Merchandising Group (FMG) is refining its home business plan, citing a "rejuvenated energy in home" that will further emphasize brands and upper-tier goods, according to Janet Grove, chairman and ceo.

Simultaneously, home is at least a partial beneficiary of FMG senior management's "four key strategies" to recast merchandising efforts across virtually all Federated divisions during 2002 and beyond. At the fulcrum of those efforts are dynamic changes in assortment strategies, improvements in the shopping experience, simplified pricing and alterations in marketing that will shift the balance between fashion and promotional advertising.

Grove offered those insights during a "Key Issues Seminar" last week, part of an industrywide occasional series sponsored by the Fashion Institute of Technology. She was part of a panel grappling with "Managing for Success in Tough Times."

About a dozen elements of those strategic initiatives are being rolled out to 42 stores during the fourth quarter and should be in place within the next month, Grove said. First among them is an effort to make the merchant's assortments more compelling, by dramatically editing and narrowing those selections. "We know time is a precious commodity, and we know we must provide a simpler shopping experience for the customer," Grove said.

While assortments are pared down, Federated is investing in new technology that will help it micromanage assortments "right down to the door level," she explained.

While improving the company's in-stock position, the updated technology will also help reduce markdowns, speed inventory turns and drive sales.

The assortment strategy also places emphasis on newness with additional floor space realized from sharpened assortments. "Sameness at retail is boring the customer," she told the industry audience. "Give her a reason to shop."

Finally, the assortment strategy calls for Federated to better differentiate its offerings, which Grove said will be accomplished through closer ties with vendors to develop new and exclusive products.

Federated is also testing and refining shopping environments in stores in Columbus, OH, and Atlanta. Among those are:

  • Revamped Junior and YM departments featuring high-end music systems, video games and vending machines.

  • Internet kiosks allowing access to e-mail and information about entertainment venues.

  • New "Way Finding" signage.

  • Centralized checkouts.

Grove also discussed FMG's efforts at simplifying pricing: fewer price points, less "POS-ing," fewer coupons and fewer signage formats so that markdowns and percentage off discounts are calculated before the consumer gets to the register.

"We know it's confusing to shop in many of our stores, particularly during sale periods," Grove said. "So we're testing a number of pricing concepts to make the customer's shopping experience simpler, faster and more convenient."

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