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Garden Ridge growing home décor

Garden Ridge is working to become "the Lowe's of home décor," an effort that involves expanding its offerings in domestics, furniture, housewares and floral.

The 36-unit company, which has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since early February, reported a comp store increase of 3 percent for June.

"We're in a much better position to drive sales this summer than we were last year, through improved inventory and markdown management and stronger promotional plans," said Jack Lewis, CEO, who returned to the company this past April after five years. "We're beginning to see strong consumer response to our fall goods, which began hitting the floor three weeks ago and immediately started to sell briskly."

In home textiles, Garden Ridge is "rapidly expanding" its assortment in bath, floor coverings and window, Lewis told HTT.

In bath, "The customer looks at us as a destination shop, but also shops for convenience and impulse," Lewis said.

Garden Ridge carries one or two basic solid-color towels, supplemented by special buys and seasonal offerings, he said.

In rugs, the retailer has been steadily pushing into larger sizes and now carries area rugs measuring up to 6-by-9.

The window department has been revamped, with a focus on three-piece and five-piece "window-in-a-bag" sets and a selection of basic hardware. "We had a complicated window department. We found a simpler way to present it," Lewis said.

The retailer's strong suit in textiles is still bedding, particularly bed-in-a-bag, he said. Pricing ranges from $29.99 to $79.99.

"We've done a lot of research on our customer. We've got a portion of big lower income and a big portion of high-end — and everything in between. We touch them all," Lewis said.

Direct importing accounts for about 40 percent of the total store mix, and roughly the same percentage of the textiles assortment, he added. Garden Ridge's buyers handle both domestic purchasing and importing.

"It will expand — not so much from a cost perspective but from a trend perspective," Lewis said, adding that florals and seasonal merchandise are the most heavily sourced import categories in the store.

Recently, Garden Ridge filled the final slot in its senior management structure with the hiring of Steve Higgins as senior vice president and general merchandise manager in May and Rich Brown as chief financial officer in June. Higgins was previously senior vice president of merchandising at Cost Plus World Market. Brown was formerly with The Christmas Tree Shops, the specialty chain acquired last year by Bed Bath & Beyond.

Rounding out the team is former Federated merchant Jerry McBrair, who last year joined the company as senior vice president of stores and operations from Breuners Home Furnishings, a 10-unit furniture store chain operating in the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay areas.

The company hopes to emerge from bankruptcy protection by the end of the third quarter, Lewis said. The emergence has been stalled in part by delays in lease renegotiations.

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