By  on June 8, 1994

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.

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