BUSINESS: Fred’s tests new look in Tupelo

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

In November, Fred’s opened its new concept store in east Tupelo.
Officially called “fred’s smallmart” by the Memphis-based discount retailer, the prototype is the new look for the company.
When it opened, the Tupelo store was only the fourth of its type.
But by the end of the month, the remaining three Fred’s stores in the All-America City should be converted to the new format.
That will make Tupelo the first market in the country to have all of its Fred’s stores feature the new look.
The “smallmart” features a number of noticeable changes from the earlier design: wider aisles, a different assortment of merchandise and a bigger emphasis on food and household goods.
The redesigned stores are cleaner, less cluttered and have better signage – moves to lure more shoppers and to get them to spend a little more.
During the recession, dollar stores picked up business as consumers watched their wallets a little more and shopped more frugally.
Fred’s – like Dollar General, Family Dollar and other low-cost retailers – pushed its value-oriented business model and for the most part succeeded.
But retailers can’t be static. They have to change, too, to keep finicky shoppers coming through their doors. While their moves don’t have to be revolutionary, they must be evolutionary.
For Fred’s to use Tupelo as a test site of sorts says a lot about the company’s confidence in this market. Its stores apparently have done well enough that it thinks it can gauge consumer tastes here.
The company has more than 650 stores and plans to eventually convert all of them to this new format.
And Tupelo can say it had a big hand in the company’s plans.

Piggly Wiggly update
The owners of Piggly Wiggly in Saltillo say there’s no truth to the ugly rumor that the store is closing.
Some bare shelves and holes on counters left shoppers wondering about what was going on with the store, but management said that from Christmas to the end of January, Piggly Wiggly was selling down its inventory.
The store wanted to get rid of the stuff that wasn’t selling as well to make room for products that do. The private-label Piggly Wiggly products are less expensive and offer better value. Customers are buying fewer brand-name products, so the store is making more space available for what sells.

More on Toyota
Last week, I wrote that Toyota had experienced a week it would rather forget. Better tack on another week.
With the recalls that now involve Prius, it’s hard to believe that the fate of Blue Springs is still assured.
“Nothing has changed” as far as the plant opening sometime in the future, the company said.
But we in Northeast Mississippi can’t help but wonder how much the bad publicity is going to affect when that future might begin.

Contact Dennis Seid at dennis.seid@djournal.com or (662) 678-1578.