By Barbara Thau
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Meijer is returning to home retailing 101: from stocking the right towel to bringing back the white sale, Robert Atteberry, Meijer's vice president of home and electronics, told HFN.
The retailer that pioneered the supercenter format is also beefing up national brands, starting with the exclusive launch of Cannon soft home goods last month.
That strategy follows Meijer's 2004 home remodel, which overplayed lifestyle merchandising and contemporary assortments, Atteberry said.
"There was a slight shift to the fashion element and an oversight to what the basics could do for us day in and day out," he said.
Now the focus is on rounding out the home mix from a good-better-best perspective, category by category, he said.
"We're looking at our own brands and at national brands, and starting to balance them," Atteberry said. "The first attack is bed and bath."
The retailer rolled out 500 SKUs of Cannon Classic and Cannon Royal Family bed and bath products to its 181 stores last month, marking the largest home product launch in the retailer's history.
Atteberry hopes Cannon will bring the soft home department the brand equity it's missing, as well as an imprimatur of quality.
Cannon's debut also marks the relaunch of the white sale at the chain, which had been dormant for several years. It's part of a larger move to step up marketing efforts with home sales and "big promotions," Atteberry said.
Meijer embarked on a massive remodeling program in 2004 that included lower shelving for clearer sightlines and a reworked home area. Since then, 130 of its 181 stores have been remodeled.
While some of the home changes have endured, others, such as the faux-wood floors, have been nixed.
When Atteberry was named to the top home post in January, he considered six driving principles: branding, product introductions, bringing back white sales and home sales, shoring up the basics (i.e., white sheets), keeping the product fresh and controlling markdowns.
Atteberry is working to foster a home mix that is 50 percent "good," 30 percent "better" and 20 percent "best."
Hard home is now under the microscope with a makeover that will bow in the spring.
"We're looking for [an exclusive] Cannon-type launch in kitchenware," he said.
Thus far, the gadget department has been "redone to focus on brand significance," Atteberry said. The department now highlights brands such as KitchenAid and Oxo.
"We want to be a destination for categories like hard kitchen, bakeware, cookware, small kitchen appliances, gadgets, and bed and bath," Atteberry said. "They're traffic drivers and the footsteps are there."
Private-label goods are also part of the equation, accounting for about 40 percent of the home mix with brands like At Home with Meijer. Private-label merchandise is one way Meijer sets itself apart from national chains Wal-Mart and Target, Atteberry said.
Meijer's grocery niche is another point of difference. As all Meijer stores are supercenters, the retailer enjoys the shopping frequency of a supermarket, thereby sparking the potential for more home purchases, Atteberry said.
Although home has been "relatively difficult across the industry," Meijer's home business "has seen a nice little bump" from the Cannon launch, Atteberry said.
"We're evaluating [more] brand opportunities and making our own brands stronger," he said.