Gary James -- Home Textiles Today, 5/28/2012 2:00:00 AM
RALEIGH, N.C. - Battling for a growing share of consumer spending in the competitive category of collection bedding, regional department store majors Dillard's and Belk each have staked out their own turf through distinct merchandising, marketing and pricing strategies.
As it does in apparel, Dillard's puts a heavy Emphasis on house brands. In the case of bedding, key lines include Luxury Hotel, Noble Excellence and Studio D. The chain also carries several big-name brands on an exclusive basis, including Candice Olson and Reba Home.
Belk also plays the house brand card actively, with large assortments of its Home Accents and Madison Home bedding lines on store shelves. But Belk has a more extensive in-store offering of big-brand names than Dillard's, with a roster that includes Tommy Bahama, Woolrich, Nautica and Biltmore For Your Home, an exclusive partner in bedding and other home-related products.
In pricing, Dillard's leans a bit higher than Belk, concentrating on four-piece sets (comforter, bed skirt and two standard shams) in the $200 to $300 range, but also offering a number of discounted specials under $150. Belk, by contrast, emphasizes the $179 to $249 range, and also has a deep assortment of sale items under $150, including 3-piece "mini-comforter" and 8-piece "bed in a bag" sets as low as $64.
HTT visited both stores in the Triangle Town Center mall in north Raleigh, N.C., twice during consecutive weekends in late April and early May as part of "Face to Face," an ongoing series that compares similar product classifications at pairs of competing retailers. The Dillard's store at Triangle Town Center is a 206,000-square foot site; the Belk store has a footprint of 180,230 square feet. Both stores are anchors at the two-level upscale mall, along with Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Sears.
Dillard's has 300 locations in 29 states. Belk has 303 stores in 16 southern states.
At its Triangle Town Center store, Dillard's greets shoppers entering the department with the Valmont collection from its proprietary Luxury Hotel line. Priced at $350 for four pieces in a queen size, the set represents the high end of the retailer's in-store assortment.
Based on a detailed analysis of all collection bedding in the department, Dillard's Triangle Town Center focuses its efforts on the $200 to $300 price range for four-piece queen sets, with a strong selection at both ends as well as intermediate steps such as $225, $250 and $275.
But clearance pricing also plays an important role at Dillard's and, during the weekends HTT visited, a variety of sets were on sale with deep discounts, including collections from Candice Olson, Croscill, Daniel Cremieux, Reba Home and Rose Tree. The house brand Noble Excellence accounted for the majority of markdowns, with sets running from $104 to $161. Most of the Noble Excellence sets were originally priced from $299 to $349, with a few as high as $399. Markdowns across the department ran from 30 percent to as high as 65 percent.
The front of the department spotlights bedding in the $200 to $280 range from sources such as Veratex, Waterford, J. Queen, Rose Tree and Dena Home. Products are grouped by brand, with wood or metal racks holding coordinated items such as decorative pillows and valances, in addition to comforters.
A sale table near the front included $115 comforter sets from Lauren Ralph Lauren - a 50 percent discount. On a rack near the back was a cl earance set from Raymond Waites, also marked down 50 percent to $149.
Most of the left rear corner of the department is devoted to Noble Excellence, with more than a dozen collections on display in cubbyhole wall shelving. Nearby are freestanding racks with a deep assortment of related items, including coordinated sheet sets, Euro shams, pillows and quilts.
The back walls spotlight nearly 10 collections from Croscill and a half-dozen collections from Candice Olson, with nearby racks showcasing additional comforter sets and accessories. Also featured in this area are collections from Reba Home and Studio D.
The bedding department at Dillard's Triangle Town Center store features an airy, easy-to navigate floorplan. Nearly two dozen accessorized beds are scattered throughout the area, with nearby racks of related products. Spotlight beds include Candice Olson's Frill Seekers, J. Queen's Portrait, Rose Tree's Marseilles, Studio D's Hannah, Veratex's Valverde and Waterford's Fontyne.
Dillard's website lists a total of 123 bedding collections from 21 brands. In addition to deeper assortments from in-store sources such as Noble Excellence (19 collections), Croscill (12), J. Queen (11) and Candice Olson (11), the website features collections not seen in the Triangle Town Center store from Vera Wang (5 sets) and Steve Madden (5).
Shoppers can sort the website by brand, color and price range, as well as by "recent arrivals."
At Belk, several collections from the Biltmore For Your Home shown on beds at the department entrance immediately convey the spirit of the chain's slogan to shoppers: "Modern. Southern. Style."
While Dillard's relies on simple shelf and bed tags to guide bedding shoppers, Belk's hangs several colorful banners over its spotlight beds to draw attention. The Biltmore area features one such banner, along with signage promoting free tickets to the estate's Festival of Flowers with a qualifying purchase.
Other banners in the central walkway area that leads through the department promote Tommy Bahama and MaryJane's Home. The walkway is lined with more than a dozen beds, a mix of comforters and quilts. In addition to three sets from Biltmore For Your Home, the beds spotlight collections from Waverly, Croscill and Home Accents. Behind each bed are lucite racks with inventory of featured items.
Comforters share space on one side of the bedding department with pillows, sheets and protectors. On the other side, they are shown with decorative pillows, quilts, bedspreads, coverlets and blankets. Each category is clearly identified with signs above the racks. While the overall presentation of the department is more crowded than Dillard's, it's still easy to shop because of its clear organization and visible signage.
Lining one side of the department is a long wall of cubbyhole shelving featuring the bulk of Belk's collection bedding assortment. This area includes comforters from key sources such as Croscill, Harbor House, Home Accents, Madison Home, MaryJane's Home, Waverly and Woolrich, all grouped by brand.
A good deal of Belk's bedding activity centers on the $179 to $249 range, with product from Biltmore and its sister line Hotel Biltmore, Croscill, Harb or House, MaryJane's Home, Tommy Bahama, Waverly and Woolrich. Virtually all of the products in that range were marked as being on sale, first for a "one-day sale" and the next weekend for a "customer appreciation" event. The original pricing for these items was listed from $240 to $358.
Belk also targets the value driven shopper at its Triangle Town Center location with a variety of eight-piece "bed in a bag" collections from Home Accents. Prices range from $64 to $149. And it offers a selection of three-piece, mini-comforter sets from Home Accents and Waverly priced as low as $79 and $129, respectively.
Belk's online assortment of bedding collections includes nearly 200 collections and 30 brands. On the site, selections are grouped by style, including casual, coastal, floral, formal, modern and solid. Shoppers can sort the collection bedding category by brand, style, color and price range, as well as by "new arrivals."
Additional bedding brands available on the Belk website but not seen in the Triangle Town Center store include Barbara Barry, Calvin Klein, Izod and Perris Ellis.
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