By Carlie Kollath
Hancock Fabrics is remodeling its stores and the Tupelo location is the first in the state to be revamped.
It has thousands of new items, new displays, new signage and a new layout. The store has plenty of its traditional fabric offerings, but now about 25 percent of the selling space is dedicated to craft items.
“We’re not eliminating fabric to fit this in,” said Dena Livingston, Hancock’s vice president of marketing. “We’re mainly fabric. This is to enhance what our fabric customers are doing. We don’t want them to have to leave to finish a project.”
The inventory additions still are being tested, Livingston said, but so far, so good.
“We did a lot of homework before we did this,” she said. “We knew it was viable. We didn’t go into it blind.”
Three extremely popular categories, said store manager Janiece Martin, have been cake decorating, scrapbooking and kids’ crafts. Other new categories include woodworking, paint, baskets, jewelry making and a self-framing area.
Said Livingston, “People who sew also do that stuff and now they can get it here. … We’re not trying to be our competitors. We’re just trying to be better for our customers.”
She attributed much of the popularity of do-it-yourself projects to hit reality shows such as “Project Runway,” “Cake Boss” and “Ace of Cakes.”
“People have to have an outlet,” Livingston said. “They can’t afford to travel.”
Martin added that she’s seeing more of her customers enter a “nesting” phase and turning to crafts and at-home projects.
At the Tupelo store, the measuring area and the cash registers have been moved to the center of the store near the front doors. Home decor items are grouped to the right of the register area. Fabric and sewing-related items fill the front section of the store on the left and on the right.
The newly added craft sections run the length of the back of the store.
It’s a work in progress, said Martin, noting that the self-framing area is still being set up. When it is done, customers will be able to select a frame and a pre-cut mat to frame a print from the store or a print or photo from home.
The education area also is in the beginning stages. Hancock has set up a table and chairs that it plans to use to give in-store demonstrations from vendors. Topics may include cake and cookie decorating.
“A lot of people want to sew but they don’t know how,” she said. “We’ll look at YouTube, our website and classes in-store.”
Livingston said demonstration topics and the schedule will be ironed out in the future.
Along with the table for adults, Hancock has added a children’s seating area in the craft department. The table and chairs are brightly colored and pint-sized.
The Tupelo location is one of Hancock’s larger store formats, coming in at 26,000 square feet. Livingston said that while the other stores eventually will be remodeled, they won’t necessarily look like the Tupelo store because they are smaller.
On a recent quarterly earnings call, Hancock Fabrics CEO Jane Aggers said 14 stores across the country were remodeled in April and May. She said the data is too new to see if it has improved sales in stores, but she plans to have an update at the second-quarter conference call.
In the most recent quarter, same-store sales were down 2 percent, with the company posting a $1.3 million loss for the quarter. However, Hancock in the past year has reduced its debt by $17.8 million.
Hancock’s immediate goal, according to CFO Rob Driskell, is to get to $100 of sales per square foot. Right now, Driskell said, the company is in the mid-70s.
At the store level, Martin said she’s already seeing the new items help drive sales. She said with the start of summer, kids’ crafts have been extremely popular, especially for vacation Bible school events.
Customers also are working on fall projects, with one woman last week on a mission to find the store’s fake fur selections.
“Our customers are so passionate,” Livingston said. “I don’t have to convince people to shop here.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.