Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Knowing Your Customer at the Zip-Code Level

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Knowing Your Customer at the Zip-Code Level

Article excerpt

MIAMI -- Shoppers at Sears HomeLife stores used to feel like they were ready for snow instead of sand when they saw the dark, traditional furniture on display in Florida.

But the Sears, Roebuck subsidiary has livened up its offerings with leather, rattan and wicker living room sets and lighter, brighter fabrics to match the taste of customers close to the tropics.

Sears' makeover is a product of micromarketing, which offers a reward of big bucks if retailers struggling to get noticed in a crowded marketplace understand their customers at the zip-code level. "The bottom line is the customer continues to become more elusive," said Steve Nevill, a partner with Atlanta-based retail consultant Kurt Salmon Associates. "You're trying to get customers to spend more on each walk-through." The days of national chains carrying the same merchandise everywhere are over. With retailers struggling to get noticed in the crowded marketplace, many now base product selection and allocation on the needs and desires of their customers in a particular area. But finding the magic, moneymaking product mix takes more than just common sense. Focus groups, demographics, distribution logistics and computer analysis all help in the planning. Target discount stores started micromanaging after it faced a series of blunders over the last few years, like sending snow shovels to California and running an Antarctic promotion during a Florida heat wave. "You get the picture," said company spokeswoman Gail Dorn. "We just kind of were shooting ourselves in the foot." The solution was to pay attention at the store level. In Atlanta, in-line skates are big sellers at one store, "but you can't sell a pair of them down the road five miles," Dorn said. Regional managers couldn't be expected to know that the first store is in a flat neighborhood and the second is surrounded by hills. …

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