BOB’S SEEKS BROADER CUSTOMER BASE

Byline: Brad Barth

NEW YORK — Bob’s Stores plans to use data mining technology to target teenagers, whom the company has largely ignored in the past.
Planning for the day when Generation Y matures and earns more money, Bob’s, a low-priced men’s and women’s apparel retailer, based in Meriden, Conn., wants teenagers now to view the chain as an affordable option. A cornerstone of the company’s teen marketing initiative will be a loyalty card program that will reward Bob’s young shoppers with points that can be redeemed for additional merchandise.
The retailer already possesses the customer relationship management technology necessary to implement such a loyalty program. Using a data warehousing and data mining solution from STS Systems, Ontario, Bob’s can record, store and analyze teenage shoppers’ purchasing histories and loyalty point accumulation.
According to Dave Burton, database marketing manager at Bob’s, “Once they are using loyalty cards on a regular basis, then I can see what their buying habits are, and we’ll be able to target them better” with promotions and advertisements.
Burton explained that teenage customers will be eligible for promotions based on frequency of store visits, how recently they shopped at Bob’s and personal data such as where they live.
Bob’s recently conducted a study where high-school students were asked what kinds of promotions would convince them to shop Bob’s. “Of the four focus groups, they all picked a teen loyalty card as one of the top five things that would get them into the store,” said Burton.
Bob’s is especially looking to attract more female teens because they tend to influence what their boyfriends, brothers and fathers shop for.
Also, Bob wants to shed a perception among consumers that Bob’s is a men’s-only store. “We’ve got a whole women’s and girls’ department. Most people don’t know about it,” said Burton.
Bob’s is considering rewarding loyalty card shoppers with more than just points, including special offers on concert tickets or sponsoring a teens-only night at its stores.
When this youth-based initiative commences later this year, Bob’s hopes that it can duplicate the success it has already achieved marketing to its traditional customer base. Since implementing CRM technology approximately two years ago, Bob’s promotions have been generating response rates ranging from 6 percent to 8 percent.
However, Bob’s business recently hasn’t been easy, though the specialty retailer of basic branded apparel has new management and about a month ago secured a $65 million revolving credit facility from Fleet Retail Finance. Proceeds will be used for working capital and general corporate purposes. Bob’s operates 34 stores in the Northeast.
In November 1997, Bob’s was spun off from Melville Corp., and sold to Citicorp Venture Capital Ltd. and chain management for $92 million.