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Avonhome serves up new merchandising mix

Avonhome Fashions is currently launching a new merchandising program for table linens, dubbed "Where Do You Eat?" The program asks the question in an attempt to make the consumer's typical eating experience — wherever it may be — more comfortable and tailor-made to those preferences.

The new approach includes new product specifically designed for the five main eating scenarios Avonhome recently identified as those most commonly used by the consumer, as well as a new presentation format that makes shopping for the product "more interesting" and easy, according to Chris Mooney, vp, design and marketing.

After organizing a series of consumer focus groups over the past 18 months, Avonhome said it was equipped with the knowledge of how to best target the needs of those eating at home.

"The table linen category is not about place mats, table cloths, napkins and chair pads. It is about eating. Table linens are the stage that is set for the activity of dining," Mooney said. "So, in correctly merchandising this category, it is the various dining scenarios with which we need to become familiar."

Those scenarios, Avonhome found, are five popular eating environments: kitchen counter, kitchen table, dining room, bed and den (the latter of which relates to TV viewing).

"When table linens are viewed within this context, one begins to realize that the same merchandise assortments for every 'collection' or pattern offered in a retail department cannot possibly be maximized from a productivity standpoint," he said. "Each of the different eating scenarios requires different products based on the realities of that environment."

There are five sections of the 24-foot planogram.

Kitchen Counter is a 4-foot display for place mats, napkins and stool covers in primary colorways.

Mooney explained that in this section "the place mat is the driver," as opposed to the typical table linen planogram in which place mats exist as a result of the driving table cloth that appears across the entire run. "That often does not result in the best place mat possible for the customer who wants only the place mat," he added. "Design for table cloth and place mat have different motivations."

Kitchen Table, the largest of the five sections because it is the "backbone of the run," Mooney said, occupies 12 feet of space and features place mats, napkins, solid-color fabric tablecloths, vinyl printed tablecloths and a strong chair pad presentation. The colorways for the kitchen table section are part of the more traditional mid-tone palette.

Dining Room is a 4-foot section that includes place mats, napkins, tablecloths and runners that are more formal both in construction — damask — and colorways — burgundy, hunter, navy, white and ivory. The table cloths are available only in white and ivory, which account for typically 65 percent of Avonhome's sales. The runners are displayed on hangers.

In Front of the TV is a 2-foot section that includes three tray-cut place mats in burgundy, hunter, navy and other "den" colors, as Mooney described them, with matching napkins. The section also includes standing TV trays. "Because this department is no longer 'about table linens' but 'about eating,' then it makes sense to consider some other collateral product that might include some hard goods," Mooney explained, referring to Avonhome's introduction of hard goods for the table linens category.

In Bed, also 2-feet in dimension, is made up of place mats and napkins in white and ivory. "It is meant to cover a more romantic feel, Mooney said. "The bed tray is another interesting addition."

The planogram includes Where Do You Eat? signage as well as circular signage floating over each section to indicate the dining environment that is being merchandised.

Product price points range from $1.99 to $4.99 for place mats and $6.99 to $19.99 for tablecloths.

"It is more interesting to shop — and must be more productive per square foot — than the traditional run," Mooney noted.

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