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Hancock aims to keep 'em in stitches

Andrea Lillo -- Home Textiles Today, March 10, 2003

Without overlooking its traditional customer base, Hancock Fabrics continues to find success in courting the non- or occasional stitcher, and will continue to blow out its home decor concept, now in two-thirds of its store base.

Another 60 to 70 existing units will be repositioned with the in-store program this year, said Larry Kirk, ceo, during the company's fourth quarter conference call with analysts. Additionally, all new units — numbering about 35 to 40 this year — will open with the home decor program, which has grown to account for 27 percent of the company's sales.

Anchored by Waverly Fabrics, home decor has helped raise Hancock's average ticket almost two dollars, to $21 this year, Kirk said, and new items, such as small furniture pieces, will continue to be added.

The home accents area also helped establish a gift business for the company, turning the two weeks before Christmas from one of its least productive periods to one of its most productive. Merchandise reallocation has added new skus while eliminating under-performers, Kirk said, resulting in increased inventory turnover over the last five to six years.

The average store footprint has also increased, to about 13,300 square feet, although it can go up to 15,000 square feet where needed.

The Northeast, Florida and the West Coast will also win attention for their growth potential, Kirk said.

Home decorating comps saw gains of more than 16 percent for the fourth quarter, while home sewing had a 10 percent increase.

Sales per square foot grew to $88 from $81. To date, the chain has also closed and relocated 270 units to larger spaces in better locations. But while unit growth has declined, square footage and productivity have increased.

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