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Big-boxes out to grab more of domestics basket


Wal-Mart is in the midst of a long awaited home invasion, one that should finally position its operation consistently with the improvements in home assortment it has made over the past several years. With a new merchandising scheme and the addition of the Canopy line in domestics, the No. 1 seller of home goods in the United States is poised to gain market share.

Over the past several years, Wal-Mart has improved its home assortment significantly, but its home merchandising only incrementally. Lately, though, things have changed. Wal-Mart has developed a presentation that demonstrates the depth, breadth and coordination of home product. It offers lower-scale fixtures in new and remodeled stores, opening up the section and better framing key products. An updated floor plan features merchandise organized by rooms and more visible signage.

Additionally, Wal-Mart is rolling out the new Canopy home furnishings brand with domestics products already on the shelves in select stores and also online at . The Canopy launch will continue with an expansion into furniture, bath accessories, dinnerware and decor in stores and online over the course of the summer and fall, Wal-Mart stated.

Canopy isn’t Wal-Mart’s only home initiative in North America. In Canada, the retailer is adding a George home line. The George apparel line, originally developed in Wal-Mart’s Asda division in Britain, has been a hit in Canada and is a bigger part of the retailer’s assortment there. Wal-Mart Canada decided to add a private label under the George name to build on its success. “Whether it’s clothes or housewares, the idea behind George is accessible, affordable fashion,” said Kevin Groh, a Wal-Mart Canada spokesman. “We’re carrying over a brand that is established and carries a cache for our customers.”

As for the home line itself, the positioning speaks to both practicality and style. “In home, our approach has been to offer solutions. In the case of George, the solution is style at a great price,” Groh said.

Unlike in the United States, Wal-Mart Canada isn’t currently pairing a product rollout and major merchandising upgrade. “We’re not recreating the department,” Groh said, “we’re simply broadening out the upper end with really nice products with very compelling prices.”

The Canopy brand is positioned similarly, but with a bit more emphasis on value, although the line includes items such as 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. According to Wal-Mart, Canopy was developed to meet the quality and convenience needs of busy, but budget-conscious, families. Wal-Mart contends that Canopy prices will be as much as 40% below competitive product.

“The new Canopy line strengthens our home brands portfolio and continues our focus on offering the products our customers want at the price they expect from Wal-Mart,” said Linda Hefner, evp of home at Wal-Mart, in announcing the brand rollout.

Wal-Mart noted that the Canopy line is one element in its efforts to improve the customer experience in its home department. In the fall, Wal-Mart plans to launch a new line of Better Homes and Gardens products with brand owner the Meredith Corp.

The home revisit is timely on Wal-Mart’s part, because other mass-market retailers are moving to make it hard to take market share from them. Target has been reworking home, too, as it periodically does, expanding on its new Thomas O’Brien product line, in one initiative.

However, it is Sears Holdings that has been making the big move lately, licensing the Cannon brand from Iconix. Sears Holdings confirmed plans for Cannon in both Kmart and Sears, although Kmart is going to be the initial focus. “It’s going to roll in the fall time-frame in Kmart,” said Sears spokeswoman Amy Diamond.

Yet, the Sears Holdings introduction won’t be a retail premier, at least in and around the Great Lakes. Meijer signed an exclusive deal for Cannon last year and offers two sub-brands, Cannon Classic and Cannon Royal Family. Cannon has become an anchor for Meijer’s domestics program, and the retailer says it has gotten a good shopper response.

“This is a notch up for our home department,” said Frank Guglielmi, a Meijer spokesman. “Customers have really embraced it. We have sheets in higher thread counts now. We have a couple of different tiers. The Royal Family is a bit more of an upgrade. So basically, it has more of an up-scale feel than before in what’s offered in this area.”

Clearly, mass retailers are out to grab more home market share with domestics being the current focal point.

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