Stein Mart's unsung fashion statement —decorative fabrics
By Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, 4/23/2001 12:00:00 AM
JACKSONVILLE, FL — As one of the few full-line retailers to still merchandise decorative fabrics, Stein Mart looks at the merchandise both as a business opportunity and a direction signal for the rest of its home areas.
As Pat Torreyson, vp/gmm explained, "We have fabrics in 13 stores, and we have no plans to expand unless there is a real estate opportunity that gives us more space in new stores."
But, she added, "it's a nice business, and very good for us from a directional view of trends in gifts and linens."
The departments range from 1,500 square feet to 2,000 square feet, said Pat Stagner, vp/dmm, who oversees the departments as well as home textiles. "We're very targeted in terms of fashion, novelty and upholstery looks." In addition, she explained, "Our customers are more decorative across the board in home. They come to us for fabrics that are not at the big fabric chains."
An important facet of Stein Mart's approach, Stagner explained, "is that we bring in newness every month. The assortment always is changing, we edit out quickly." As an example, she said, "We were selling so much in animal looks before; now we're big in British West Indies and tropical."
Waverly and P/Kaufmann are "probably our biggest vendors, but we shop Showtime [High Point, NC] both for fabric but also to get directional input for colors and trends, especially in decorative pillows, and then bed and bath," Stagner related.
The product mix ranges from sheers to upholstery fabrics and some trimmings. In trims, "it is not the widest assortment, but we can put a look together," she said.
Stein Mart receives directly from the fabric suppliers — mills and converters. "We don't as a rule go through jobbers," Stagner said. Fabrics are shipped directly into the stores, but reorders are done through headquarters here. "We carefully watch sales rates," Stagner explained. Basics are on automatic reorder, she added.
Interestingly, with only 13 of the company's 219 stores carrying decorative fabrics, there is very little advertising; it's mostly word of mouth, and there are very little regional differences even though the stores span from Florida to the Southwest to the Midwest.
Display fixtures hold six bolts of fabric per side, and the ends of the fixtures have a little vignette with the newest fashion statement, Stagner explained. The Waverly presentation also features decorative pillows covered in the key fabrics, which are an increasingly important piece of business, she said.
As far as fabrication is concerned, Stein Mart does none but instead "offers a list of market fabricators. We offer the names, but not as a recommendation," Stagner emphasized.
Fabric departments are in Stein Mart units in Jacksonville and Clearwater, FL; Louisville, KY; Biloxi and Jackson, MS; Memphis, TN; Greenville, SC; Overland Park, KS; Asheville, NC; Monroe, LA; Lafayette, IN; Aurora, IL; and Glendale, AR.
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