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New ShopKo prototypes bring harmony to home

ShopKo's reformatted prototype units have put more harmony into home presentations, pulling together disparate categories for improved adjacenies and jazzing up the merchandise presentation with the retailer's first dressed bed display.

The total store makeover, unveiled last week here and at a unit in Ashwaubenon, WI, features a new warm color palette, more lighting, easy-to-read signage and new wood laminate fixtures. ShopKo has spent $5 million to remodel three units to the set, including a store in Eau Claire, WI, to open in November.

"In all honesty, the store had a very cluttered look," said Sam Duncan, president and ceo. "We had to make sure it was more convenient to shop. We want to create a comfortable atmosphere."

For domestics, the biggest change was made to the adjacencies, Doug Wurl, senior vp/gmm, hardlines and home, told HTT. Now with home decor, RTA furniture and rugs nearby, he said, "the corridor has really become a total home story."

The chain also has renewed its focus on merchandise. "There was not enough newness in domestics. We got behind the times, frankly," said Duncan.

The window category was given more space, and ShopKo added warm, wood laminate displays so that customers can "see, touch and feel" the product, Duncan said. "People say our quality is equal to what they see in places like Pottery Barn."

ShopKo expanded the window area, he said, because "we don't do justice on window," especially when one considers the average home has far more windows than beds.

Duncan mentioned that he enjoys walking through The Great Indoors, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl's, and Linens 'n Things to see how they merchandise their products. Duncan also bristled at calling ShopKo a discount operator. "I don't like that term." Or the term "mass." He considers ShopKo a "great regional retailer with great names," adding that to differentiate itself it must "enhance the name brands we carry."

ShopKo's push in both national and private brands is evident throughout the store, so much so that major brands are featured on the overhead department signage, which in domestics includes Springs, WestPoint Stevens, Willow Bay, Northcrest and even Cannon.

Vignettes are located throughout the store, including a dress bed in domestics — ShopKo's first. Depending on space in other remodeled stores, that could number two to three beds.

Private label in home has also been "deficient," said Duncan. Wurl added that a new home brand will join Willow Bay and Northcrest within six months. In addition, ShopKo will roll out chainwide a 300-count sheet program under the Willow Bay label within 30 days.

"We're doing a whole push in differentiation within private brands," Wurl said.

Throughout the store, a new brown, tan, and green color palette provides a sharp contrast with the company's old red, white and blue one. "We had to warm these stores up," Duncan said. The remaining element from the old format here is the ShopKo logo in the old colors on the storefront, which should be changed to a golden hue by the end of the year.

The store's 84-inch gondolas have been lowered to 72 inches to improve sightlines. Center display tables in the main aisles have been removed to create more space.

Signage is easier to read and lighting has increased by a fourth, Duncan said. "Cheap" mahogany wood laminate and white displays were switched to Congo Spruce or African Limba wood, for a warmer, higher quality feel.

The store also makes use of new self checkouts and check stands, which have been implemented in a number of ShopKo stores.

One department absent from the store is Urbanology, ShopKo's Gen X/Y shop that debuted a year ago. "We're getting out of it," said Duncan.

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