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Overstoring starts at the top

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, June 11, 2001

As we were gathering the information for the Home Textiles Today annual Big 5 retailers of home textiles feature, it became clear just who was contributing to the so-called overstoring of America.

For both JCPenney and Kmart, which are in the midst of major overhauls, their store count remains almost constant but their critical store mass is huge to begin with.

But the contribution of the other three of these Big 5 retailers — Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target and Wal-Mart — was almost overwhelming for 2000 in terms of new stores and relocations of existing stores to larger units. And their plans for this year — the economy notwithstanding — are even more intense.

At the same time, this drive for store expansion raises another issue: staffing the stores. The personnel issue, from the top (managers and assistant managers) down to floor help and backroom help, has become a critical part of every retailer's survival plan. With quality help so scarce, and retailing hours so intense, just where are these people going to come from?

Just a peek at what Bed Bath & Beyond has up its sleeve is awesome. In 2000, it increased its store inventory by nearly 30 percent. And for this year, it plans to increase this base by at least another 15 percent in units, bringing it to 391 stores.

Then there's Wal-Mart, with its store count accelerating, especially as it expands efforts for Supercenters with their higher-frequency visitor pattern more cost effective than the traditional Wal-Mart's.

But with Wal-Mart, the big secret is its international expansion, either via acquisition or store openings. Its nearly $32 billion in off-shore sales exceeds all but the very elite American retailers.

And now Target is going full-bore with its Super Target, a format that it has been developing slowly as the counterpoint to Wal-Mart's Supercenters. Now that the format looks viable, 30 or more new sites will open this year, on top of the 14 opened in 2000.

Last year Target Stores opened new markets in its drive to become a national presence and this year will open in Portland, ME.

As all of this expansion takes place, there will be another major change — national advertising in all media for these retailing giants.

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