Miami struggles to speak the language
May 12, 2003-- Home Textiles Today,
A small stand with circulars in both English and Spanish greets customers entering the Kmart in Miami's Westchester Mall. The Spanish edition was wrapped in Kmart's "La Vida" weekly publication. Last week's issue emphasized the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo and Mexican songstress Carmen Jara, neither of which has much resonance in this largely Cuban community.
In the domestics department, the majority of the shelves appeared to be stocked with old inventory that is on sale — most it marked down 20 percent. While some hooks and spaces on shelves were empty, most slots for missing skus had been filled with surpluses of other skus.
A big push was being made on Martha Stewart Everyday basics. Basic bath towels and coordinating rugs and toilet covers were all 20 percent off, and several small signs taped on shelves compared each product's new price to the old price.
While this store was mainly trying to push old inventory, it had sprinkled the home department with some fresh items, including a new Martha Stewart Mix & Match collection by Dan River, beach towels in "good, better, best" qualities and licensed juvenile styles from $4.49 to $15.99 (all on sale) and Home Essentials BBQ kitchen coordinates (all 25 percent off).
Ethnic marketing: Upon entering the store, Home Textiles Today's reporter was greeted in English, although later, store associates who were approached responded in Spanish. HTT's reporter also overheard associates talking among themselves — in Spanish — about their concerns that new field management assigned to the store does not speak the language.
There was new signage over the home department, which is the first area customers enter. However, all the signage was printed in English.
Also, understandably there was a big push — in product availability and assortment as well as in price points — for beach towels.
Window Coverings: There were a few holes here and there, with out-of-stocks running roughly 16 percent in Martha Stewart Everyday valances, sheers and coordinate sets of slip covers, decorative pillows, table rounds and draperies. MSE draperies on another run were missing about 10 percent of skus. Home Essentials draperies, valances, cafe curtains and sheers were in total disorder on hooks. Of 160 total skus, 15 were missing.
Decorative pillows: Martha Stewart Everyday decorative pillows were well-stocked. Offerings were constructed mostly of chenille in varied styles, especially many solids and plaids, as well as cotton lace and basic solids.
Table: Home Essentials offerings along one gondola run were missing a large number of skus — nearly 50 percent of free-standing chair pads, table toppers, and vinyl tablecloths and fabric tablecloths. Basic terry kitchen towels and coordinating dishcloths were much better stocked, as were printed, embroidered and embellished kitchen towels and dishcloths and coordinating oven mitts and pot holders. MSE kitchen and table linens were missing only a few skus.
Bath: The bath department was unevenly stocked. Cannon brand Family towel ensembles with coordinating rugs and toilet toppers, for example, was fully stocked with 50 skus available. In-stocks on MSE items across the department ran from 100 percent to 50 percent, although on average collections were missing 5 percent to 12 percent of skus. Home Essentials in-stock position was shakier, with 21 of 51 bath accessories skus missing, seven of 10 basic shower curtains absent and a whopping 10 of 15 liner skus off the shelf.
Fashion Bedding: On a run of MSE chenille bedspreads, comforters and coordinating shams, clearance stickers were stuck everywhere with no clear reference to product. Similarly, down an aisle of basic sheets and coordinating comforters and shams, small yellow-and-red stickers were taped haphazardly onto shelves to alert customers of "clearance" prices, although it was unclear exactly which products were on sale.
Nearly half of the skus were missing in 180-thread-count fitted and flat sheets, although overstocks were used to fill most of the shelves. On another run of 180-count sets, the assortment had been cut by one-third. Another gondola run in the department had been stripped of sku stickers, and shelves were filled with what appeared to be surplus MSE comforters.
Home Essentials 180-count bed-in-a-bag sets were fairly well stocked, with pricing knocked down to $49.99 all sizes from $79.99. In-stocks were fairly good in juvenile comforters and sheet sets.
Utility Bedding: Almost fully stocked, particularly MSE product.
Rugs: The department was almost completely stocked. All of its 17 area rug skus were available, and only two of 52 scatter rugs were missing.