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New HomePlace format sets sights on lower prices, category lead

New HomePlace format sets sights on lower prices, category lead

Mike Duff

MARROW, GA. — By combining the best of its two concepts into a fresh prototype, HomePlace of America intends to differentiate itself from the competition and position its retooled stores to appeal to a broader range of consumers.

At the time that the reorganization plan joining 75-unit HomePlace and 40-unit Waccamaw became effective in June, Greg Johnson, chairman and ceo of the combined entity, HomePlace of America, said that putting together a store that essentially builds on the strength of each company was a critical issue.

The prototype store in Marrow, Ga., a renovated HomePlace operating not far from Atlanta, now serves as the standard for a chainwide store repositioning. At 55,000 sq. ft., the store offers about 73,000 skus and is similar in size to a typical HomePlace store. Waccamaw units range from 45,000 sq. ft. to as large as 100,000 sq. ft.

The Marrow unit attempts to combine the successful aspects of both its predecessor store concepts. The store also includes elements that address the primary problems that plagued HomePlace in its pre-acquisition phase: a high-price perception among consumers and a business formula that never managed to propel it into the league of segment leaders, namely Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens ‘n Things.

Displays set in the aisle and on shelves highlight opening price points and promotional products. Getting those prices out in front of shoppers is a way of addressing HomePlace’s price perception problem, said Stan Massey, a district manager who supervises Atlanta operations. “HomePlace was getting known for being higher price than it was,” he told DSN.

“These are visible value items,” added Rick Wingate, the store’s manager.

In addition, the new HomePlace store is laid out to establish differentiation from the major competition. Entering the store, customers are greeted by a seasonal display, which is a satellite of a larger seasonal section a few yards away on the far upfront corner. But behind it is an extensive floral department, a substantial departure from past HomePlace layouts. At the rear of the store, shoppers encounter an expansive furniture presentation that far exceeds anything offered at Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens ‘n Things.

The updated HomePlace has a new floral department, which was developed from Waccamaw’s experience. In other instances, HomePlace departments have been expanded to the point of becoming, essentially, new sections where once a paltry display was mounted. The expansions occur in rugs, furniture, candles, seasonal and home decor.

The new HomePlace stores also will inherit product lines from Waccamaw, such as Croscil and Royal Velvet. And in return, Waccamaw stores, as they are converted, will get HomePlace products, departments and services that they lack, such as high-end cookware, bath accessories, special order and bridal registry.

The June debut of the new HomePlace prototype has been designated as the first wave of store conversions. The second wave, completed in late July, affected 25 stores, and the third is under way, with a like number of stores being renovated. Thereafter, the waves will crash through the chain through the first half of next year when all the stores in the 118-unit chain will reset to the new standard.

Ultimately HomePlace hopes to have a more viable growth vehicle that will allow the company to take advantage of a market segment that no retailer dominates but in which its major competitor aspire to stake out major empires.

According to announced growth plans, HomePlace, with 30 new stores on the board, will open only one-third as many stores over the next two years as either Bed Bath & Beyond or Linens ‘n Things. But first things first. Successfully engaging a broader customer base must proceed expansion. When and if that occurs, HomePlace can potentially increase the pace and get back in the race with the leaders.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.

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