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Gottschalks Plans on Branding Home

Cecile Corral, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, March 7, 2005

Fresno, Calif. — Gottschalks Inc. this year will place emphasis on building its home division with new brands, including a bigger push for private label goods, the company said during its fourth quarter conference call last week.

“We believe there is a significant opportunity for improved results in our home store this year,” said Jim Famalette, president and CEO. “We appointed a new (general merchandise manager) for the home store and there are several merchandising strategies we are already putting in place that we're very excited about. We believe the home division could be a major catalyst in driving store traffic in 2005.”

Famalette was referring to Donald Engelman, who joined the company in October as its home division's new vice president, general merchandise manger, overseeing housewares, tabletop, textiles and furniture.

Starting mid-year, the store will feature new lines at its home division. Through these efforts, Gottschalks will “more dramatically impact the home textiles business, as an example, with more private product,” Famalette explained.

The company said it remains on schedule to open a 44,000-square-foot store in Albany, Ore., this spring, followed by the opening of its new 100,000-square-foot lifestyle center here in August. For the latter, Gottschalks is “working quite aggressively on presenting new brands,” Famalette said.

He also said that new brands being added this year to the stores, overall, will offer “a much broader selection in key segmented markets and really will be tests for us.”

Aside from the two new stores, the company also expects to complete several major remodeling and in-store visual-enhancements projects this year.

In marketing, Gottschalks said it is working with outside specialists to help it “send a clearer, more directed message designed to further penetrate a broader women's consumer group.” It will also continue to work on improving its relationship with Hispanic customers this year.

Other initiatives for 2005 include: increasing inventory turnover, improving margins, and creating a better shopping experience. Near-term, Famalette said, Gottschalks doesn't expect an easy first quarter but anticipates strong results thereafter.

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