Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Regional Department Store Chains

Good work by Anonymous and my colleague Gerri Berendzen in responding on regional department store chains.

Dillard's is huge in the Midwest and South, and unknown elsewhere. Belk's, which began in North Carolina a century ago, remains strong in the Southeast.

The Bon-Ton out of York, Pa., and its affiliated stores such as Carson's operate in much of the Great Lakes market. Gottschalk's from Fresno, Calif., still has a toehold in central California. Herb Kohl, later to serve in Congress, started a chain in Milwaukee that may be approaching national status.

And no one from Pennsylvania mentioned Boscov's, a store that has not only held onto its core market but developed new ones by honing in strictly on the middle-class customer.

Admittedly this is not a growing list. The Southwest-based Dunlap's chain recently fell apart. But there are tales to be told of how it can be done right, not just tales of inevitable doom.

More on Dillard's to come.


Anonymous said...

I live in the area where there are Bon-Ton and Boscov's stores in addition to Kohl's, JC Penny and Sears. There is also Macy's, which used to be Hecht's.
I used to shop at Hecht's, but the product mix at Macy's doesn't interest me and I rarely buy anything there. Lately I've made a few purchases at Boscov's, but I haven't bought anything at Bon-Ton for a couple of years -- not for lack of trying.
There weem to be two factors at work. One is catalogs, which have brought to my doorstep descriptions of clothing I actually do want to buy. I've come to the conclusion that I'm a niche customer. I wear a lot of Land's End clothing, but none of the things I wear are at the Sears store, and most of the rest of my wardrobe comes from Coldwater Creek.
My daughter liked Strawbridge's, but she avoided Macy's, so when the Strawbridge stores went out of business, she was disappointed. There were subtle differences between Macy's, Strawbridge's and Hecht's, and Macy's officials didn't seem to understand that being sensitive to or preserving that difference would matter.
Bon-Ton would have benefitted from trying to offer some of the products that I liked at Hecht's, but it didn't.
For instance, I buy shoes in wide widths. Boscov's sometimes has what I want; Bon-Ton never does. Land's End also has a tendency to make all footwear in medium widths, even though its clothing comes in a wider range of sizes.
I wonder if part of the problem is buried somewhere in the marketing and pricing of women's clothing. Are manufacturers setting pricing so certain styles or size ranges have favorable pricing? (For instance, requiring retailers to buy size 6 garments if they want more size 14s?) If manufacturers want to retain profitability by projecting demand rather than responding to demand, then pricing to move what they expect will be purchased, it may make it harder for the department stores to offer local options. Perhaps this is a result of manufacturing in Asia and having long lead times for shipping. (For instance, about 15 or 20 years ago, I could order a bra at a department store if my size was out of stock. Then the department stores stopped offering that choice. Now, some are letting customers order items, but it is handled separately on the Web site, and store clerks don't help customers with those transactions.)
And in my case, I'm not settling for what I can buy locally because I can find what I want in a catalog. I grew up in a rural area and loved getting the Sears, Montgomery Wards and Penny's catalogs even when I was a kid, so the problem with department stores is not simply that catalogs are stealing business.
I have to wonder why there isn't better market analysis now that all these retailers have computer systems to track what does and does not sell.
If my local department store or my catalog merchant wanted to know what I wanted to add to my wardrobe for next season, all they have to do is ask. I would be happy to tell them. They could suggest some new trends and see if I'd spring for them. Of course, I want an open-ended survey, not a bogus forced-choice set of questions.

-- crankyshopper

Anonymous said...

The customer care from shopping stores is essential. At my side it is more effective than other selling and marketing products. I like to use Lands End Coupon Codes for shopping of apparel and clothing because of their customer care and support.

e coupons said...

Bon-Ton and Boscov's Kohl's, JC Penny and Sears these store's get their online couponsonline coupons code and save money