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Everyone wants to be a savvy shopper, even the wealthy, who visit warehouse clubs, mass merchants and discounters without feeling the least bit stigmatized, say retail experts such as Pamela Danziger, founder of Unity Marketing, who specializes in the buying behavior of the affluent. As customers cross-shop with a vengeance, retailers are trying to offer unique products and knowledgeable, courteous service. The stores on this list attracted the most shoppers in May. The pressure is on retailers to keep them coming back. Low prices and proprietary brands that shoppers can’t find elsewhere are among the selling strategies. Sears is making a statement off-the-mall where it believes there’s a potential for sales increases. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart marches forward on several fronts like its 99,000-square-foot city format while the rest of the industry quakes in its collective designer shoes.

This story first appeared in the July 15, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

  1. WAL-MART/WAL-MART SUPERCENTER
    46.4 percent

    The company says George, its exclusive apparel brand via the U.K., is a hit, but from a buzz point of view, the line isn’t setting the fashion world on fire. From a practical point of view, the $258 billion company has the potential to rip the competition to threads.
  2. TARGET/TARGET GREATLAND
    24.3 percent

    Target has made the most concerted effort to bring style to the masses and has done so without catering to only one demographic: Isaac by Isaac Mizrahi for the 20-plus crowd, Stuff by Hilary Duff for teens, Mossimo for urban style and Liz Lange maternity.
  3. KMART/BIG KMART
    16.8 percent

    Kmart is hanging its future on fashion, especially its own proprietary brands: Route 66, Attention, Thalia, Basic Additions and Jaclyn Smith. Women’s and men’s fashion, kids, accessories and jewelry combined is a $5 billion business.
  4. SAM’S CLUB
    16.4 percent

    Nobody shops at Sam’s for fashion. They go for bulk foods and paper goods along with opportunistic “buys” such as flat screen TVs and stainless steel outdoor grills with prices too good to pass up.
  5. DOLLAR TREE
    15 percent

    Dollar Tree lives up to its name with products priced at — you guessed it — one dollar. The $2 billion chain operates 2,500 stores and counting. It purchased Greenbacks, a $1 price point chain based in Salt Lake City, this year.
  6. DOLLAR GENERAL
    13 percent

    With 6,700 stores, Dollar General makes a strong case for value. Most nationally branded items are $5 or less, with packaged goods a large part of the mix. The company motto is, “We’re proud to serve our lower- and middle-income customers.”
  7. BIG LOTS
    12.3 percent

    Big Lots, which says it’s the biggest U.S. closeout chain, doesn’t scrimp on style. Dia Collins, a younger, prettier Martha Stewart, is its resident how-to guru. On the Big Lot Web site, she crafts things like chair covers from shower curtains.
  8. J.C. PENNEY
    12.1 percent

    J.C. Penney’s private brands have been key in driving sales above-plan in the first quarter ended May 1, when moderately-priced fashion led to an 8.7 percent sales increase and 9.5 percent comp growth over the prior-year period.
  9. COSTCO
    10.9 percent

    Costco sells large pack sizes of food, paper goods, fine jewelry, leather outerwear and electronics. The company expects to do $45 billion in fiscal 2004 attracting well-to-do shoppers with salmon pesto pinwheels and “My Life” by Bill Clinton.
  10. SEARS
    10.8 percent

    Sears this year bought 54 Kmart locations in a deal worth $620 million. The company now has an off-the-mall policy, locating on main streets, where people live, sleep and eat, rather than shopping centers. The chain reported comps decreased 3.1 percent in June.
  11. FAMILY DOLLAR
    10.5 percent

    Family Dollar expanded its reach by opening 50 stores in June, bringing its total to 5,317. The company targeted Texas with eight new units; Wisconsin, seven; New York, six, and two each in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
  12. KOHL’S
    9.7 percent

    Kohl’s has watched its historic profit margins shrink and its apparel business head south. While the chain relies on national brands, this year it introduced Daisy Fuentes for women and Urban Pipeline, a brand for young men and boys.
  13. OLD NAVY CLOTHING CO.
    8.4 percent

    Old Navy’s advertising is hip in a goofy, retro sort of way. Morgan Fairchild, Joan Collins, Joanne Worely, Sherman Hemsley and the late Isabel Sanford starred in a spot in honor of the company’s 10th anniversary earlier this year.
  14. T.J. MAXX OR MARSHALL’S
    8.2 percent

    TJX Corp.’s T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s sell department store brands at discounts of 20 to 60 percent, secondary brands from big-name designers and the occasional gem. Coming soon: fine jewelry, hosiery and handbags.
  15. MAY DEPARTMENT STORES
    7.7 percent

    Lord & Taylor, a division of May, has moved away from the moderate price zone in a bid for affluent shoppers. Last month’s purchase of Marshall Field’s from Target Corp. for $3.24 billion is another sign of May’s high-end ways.
  16. LIMITED BRANDS
    6.9 percent

    Limited founder Leslie Wexner has a rags-to-riches story, literally, with nameplates like Victoria’s Secret, Express, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, and the White Barn Candle Co. A collective 3,800 stores do $4 billion in sales.
  17. FEDERATED DEPARTMENT STORES
    6.8 percent

    Federated lost Marshall Field’s to rival May, but don’t cry for the retail giant. Flush with cash, Federated has a $900 million war chest and may be eyeing Barneys New York, which is reportedly on the block.
  18. VICTORIA’S SECRET
    5.4 percent

    With more than 1,000 stores and $3.5 billion in sales, Victoria’s Secret is the largest Limited Brands chain. The company, which is experienced in uplifts, hopes to boost sales by expanding many stores to 20,000 square feet.
  19. 99 CENT ONLY STORES
    5 percent

    If $1 is good, then 99 cents is even better. That’s the idea behind 99 Cent Only Stores, which sells name-brand closeout and regularly available consumables to shoppers at one 99-cent price.
  20. DILLARD’S
    4.3 percent

    Arkansas-based Dillard’s is struggling with its fashion image and the challenges of being a regional retailer in an age of national and international players. The $7.5 billion public company is managed by its founding family.

SOURCE: RETAIL FORWARD, SHOPPERSCAPE (TM) NOVEMBER 2003 to MAY 2004