NEW YORK -- Micro-marketing is not just for upscale stores.
So say a group of leading mass retailers, who contend they can successfully tailor apparel assortments to the specialized needs and tastes of local markets around the country.
Merchandising that is geared to specific markets includes the following:
More petite sizes in areas where there is a high Hispanic or Asian population.
Brighter colors and fancier children's apparel in Hispanic areas.
Western-theme merchandise in Western stores.
More women's accessories in areas with a concentration of African-Americans.
Generally, the mass merchant will first categorize stores according to certain consumer demographics, then bring local store management into the product development and buying processes.
Kmart has implemented several micro-marketing strategies in apparel, according to Rick Pellino, divisional vice president of women's wear for the discounter.
For example, Kmart divides its 2,200 stores into such market-based groups as retirement-area stores, beach-area stores and Western locations, Pellino said.
"We have a position known as 'area merchandise marketing coordinator,' or AMMC, whose job is to improve communications between the buying staff and the store-level managers and help shape mixes to special needs," he said. "For example, we may find that we have only 150 stores that can sell a traditional western shirt, so we would end up carrying the shirt in those stores."
Other examples are that stores near ski resorts carry ski jackets and ski pants, neither of which are part of the retailer's regular assortment. More small sizes are carried in markets with a large Asian customer base, particularly in Southern California.
"For our Puerto Rico market, we have assigned a buyer to supplement our core products with appropriate merchandise for the local market," Pellino said. "The buyer considers climate as well as cultural differences when making a buy."
While this system has been in place for several years, Pellino said Kmart has recently been increasing its number of coordinators, so they can devote more attention to fewer stores. Currently, there are 15 apparel coordinators, each responsible for 150 to 200 locations. He added that information technology now available to retailers allows Kmart to make appropriate merchandising shifts more quickly and accurately than ever. The ability to assess particular market conditions has speeded stock replenishment, keeping hot sizes and colors on the floor.Target's micro-marketing efforts are based on the results of a study it conducted last fall to determine how a few factors -- age, climate, small-town community and African-American, Hispanic or Asian heritage -- can affect consumer buying decisions. The study revealed that Target should make some significant merchandising shifts to meet the needs of local markets.
These included merchandising more dressy children's clothing in stores with a large Hispanic clientele and more fleece in northern California than in the southern part of the state, according to a Target spokeswoman.
For small-town stores, the company offers a wider assortment of apparel because, the spokeswoman said, there are usually fewer apparel outlets for consumers.
More robes, intimate apparel and women's hosiery are offered in units that have an older demographic.
To help it implement these changes and micro-market more effectively, Target gives its store managers considerable leeway in assorting merchandise.
"Store managers can now order specific quantities within categories, or choose not to order various items in that category at all," she said, adding that a computer system installed two years ago enables the retailer to accommodate these specific choices. "Before, if they chose a particular category, they had to take all the items in it."
"You can make some pretty specific assortment decisions for local markets," added Gary Vasques, senior vice president and director of marketing with Caldor.
The Norwalk, Conn.-based discounter begins its micro-marketing efforts by grouping stores with similar demographics, like urban, African-American, Hispanic and cooler climate markets. Assortments are developed to suit those profiles. For instance, more dresses and career clothing are carried in urban markets.
At ShopKo, buyers also use input from managers in the field to make buying decisions for local markets -- and ShopKo's store managers can buy merchandise on their own as well. They can make recommendations on specific items from local vendors, referring them to the retailer's regular buyers, according to Skip Chustz, senior vice president of merchandising.
"The buyers have to approve the vendor, however, so we can maintain our quality standards," he said.
Arthur Martinez, chairman and ceo of the Sears Merchandise Group, noted in a recent speech the company is also relying more on assortment recommendations from managers in the field."Input on decision-making must originate at levels much closer to the customer," he said. "For the first time, our store managers are looked to for local market intelligence and merchandising input."
Observers say they're not surprised that mass merchants are moving away from cookie-cutter assortments.
"Stores have to do micro-marketing today," said Janet Mangano, retail analyst with Burnham Securities. "A certain percentage of the merchandise must be customer-geared, not even just to the market, but to specific store locations."
"It's getting to be a stronger trend," concurred Edward F. Johnson, director of Johnson Redbook Service, a division of Lynch, Jones & Ryan.
Retailers and analysts agree that micro-marketing efforts generally produce subtle rather than dramatic changes, yet they are important.
For example, ShopKo's Chustz said, "In our basic jeans program, we have not been running small sizes, but we did put that size range on in our Western stores to accommodate a need."
Retailers and analysts also agree that because mass chains are so large, the costs involved in adjusting assortments by market tend to be minimal.
"Considering that Kmart has 2,200 locations, our micro-marketing parameters are still pretty big," said Kmart's Pellino. "We get the benefit of ordering in big numbers."
Besides, executives said, any extra costs are more than made up for in improved sales, fewer markdowns on unwanted merchandise and better stock positions.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye