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  • Cecile Corral

Hancock Looks to Gain Steam

Cecile Corral, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, August 22, 2005

After suffering through a slower-than-normal spring/summer selling season, Hancock Fabrics expects to pick up steam starting this fall through two major milestones — the launch of its “extreme makeover” re-fixturing and merchandise enhancement project at stores, and the opening of a new and larger prototype store in Tupelo, Miss.

The company reported during its second quarter earnings call last week that by the second week of September all of its 446 units will have undergone the extreme makeover process.

Since implementing phase one of this makeover process in June, Hancock has shifted its emphasis from strictly merchandising issues to a combination of merchandising and operational matters.

“We have endless opportunities to improve this business,” said Jane Aggers, CEO. “We are working on the right things and committed to improved results.”

The makeovers are less about an overhaul involving construction crews, she said, and more about store staff “lifting, pushing and shoving our existing fixtures and inventory to create a more customer-focused store — easier to shop and easier to manager.”

Aggers said Hancock spent $1 million on fixtures for the makeover. “To be clear, this makeover process is not high tax nor capital intensive, nor is it a full store remodel,” she continued.

With the hard-wall and nailed-in fixture limitations, the makeover positions Hancock, Aggers said, at “about 80 percent of where we'd really like to be. The makeovers are not our long-term solution to store presentation, but they represent a quick short-term improvement to the merchandising in all of our stores.”

At the store level, the makeovers translate into three new departments — home decorating, apparel and quilting craft — each focused on fabric, but enhanced with accessories.

Assortments being added and expanded include fleece solids and prints, fashion and special occasion fabrics, upholstery and drapery fabrics and several new decorating accessory lines.

The quilting department is anchored by Hancock's newly re-merchandised “Absolutely Cotton Quilting” wall, and quilting accessory offerings are being upgraded and expanded. The needlecraft area is being enhanced with more specialty yarns and accessories. And the store is expanding its sewing notions with added sewing machines, ribbons, trims, buttons, scissors, books and magazines.

The Laurie Smith collection is also being repositioned. Its sales performance has been below expectations until recently, when numbers have started to pick up. Because of its appeal to a younger, more modern customer — which is not Hancock's core shopper —the company is moving the collection out of the forefront and behind traditional fabrics.

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