• Cecile Corral

Stein Mart reinventing its home segment

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Stein Mart is ahead of schedule in its push to reinvent its home department. Kassie Jones, who joined the company last May as vice president, general merchandise manager, and her team look to have the project completed by the end of March, about two months ahead of time.


 This 'interruptive' vignette anchors the gift center and is changed every 30 to 60 days.

"We were presented the opportunity to create a new format to roll out to all 261 stores," Jones said. "It's been exciting because it's based on a vision we all had very early on."

About 60% of the stores have converted the home textiles section. The entire chain already has converted its accessory area, comprised mainly of hard goods with the exception of table linens and a small assortment of kitchen textiles.

Stein Mart's new home look centers on lifestyle themes designed to appeal to its two core customers. One is the very loyal shopper, between 35 and 55 years old with an annual household income of more than $50,000. She typically visits the store at least once every two weeks.

"She has an incredible taste level and loves traditional and opulent looks. She enjoys refined living, but wants looks that are well priced," Jones said. "She shops Stein Mart for all categories, but in the last few years has focused more on ready-to-wear and gifts, and less on home."

The other shopper is somewhat younger and is inclined to casual looks and relaxed lifestyles.

"We overlooked her to a degree in the recent past, but we're trying to come on stronger to her now," Jones said. "We're trying to strike more of a balance between our attention to her and our other core customer."

Aside from the lifestyle themes, Stein Mart also is creating color stories as a way to show transitions between seasons.

"We want to make her feel comfortable about the seasonal purchases she has already made, but give her new color and design options in each cycle that refresh her look," said Sean McGrath, divisional merchandise manager. "We can enhance the life of the products she has already bought with fresh new merchandise in our mix."

Stein Mart's home department comprises seven buyers, all of whom work from a series of style and color boards to create synergy across all categories. The retailer's merchandise mix has been altered as part of the reinvention, with enhancements in some categories and edits in others. Area rugs are no longer part of the assortment, though 2×3, 3×5 and 4×6 sizes are merchandised within each vignette. Accent furniture like chairs, tables and benches are more prevalent throughout the area.

"Furniture is going to be an important component of our business going forward," Jones said.

The accessory pad is anchored at the four corners by color- and design-specific vignettes, each of which is closed in with new metal-and-glass shelving that is stocked with decorative pieces related to each theme. Framed artwork has doubled its presence. On the second accessory pad are candles, floral and more accessories, as well as a healthy assortment of tabletop, glassware and some flatware.

The pads also feature design stories or "interruptive" vignettes, as Jones and her team call them, which are mini displays that change every 30 to 60 days.

Stein Mart's home department still is not brand focused, but Jones said she and her team are exploring several brand options.

Price-wise, Jones said the average ticket is "changing somewhat," but it is because she said Stein Mart is now delivering more quality and value in its assortment.

"We've increased value, updated the fashion and we've still managed to keep our goods incredibly affordable for our customers," Jones said.

A version of this story first appeared in Home Textiles Today, a sister publication to Home Accents Today.

Cecile CorralCecile Corral | Senior Product Editor, Home & Textiles Today

Cecile B. Corral has been a product editor with Home Textiles Today since late 2000. She covers the area and accent rug, kitchen textiles, table linens, beach towels, decorative bath and decorative pillow categories, as well as some retail subjects.

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