Setting a place in “off-price” retailing


Table Top Plus, an off-price specialty retailer patterned after Linens ‘N Things and Toys ‘R Us, is bringing “rack ’em and stack ’em” retailing to housewares.

The first store is located in the Rouse Co.’s Outlet shopping center, a complex of 40 outlet stores representing ready-to-wear, linens and domestics, hosiery, books and jewelry.

The 6,000-square-foot store carries 62,000 products from housewares and tabletop categories. Glassware is the largest category, representing 25 percent of overall sales, followed by cookware and bakeware, representing 16 percent of overall sales.

Setting a place in

Flatware and cutlery account for 13 percent of sales volume, gadgets for 10 percent, casual dinnerware for 7 percent, while fine china and silver, microwave cookware, mugs, lighting, woodenware each account for 4 percent to 5 percent.

Brand names include Anchor Hocking, Libbey Glass, J.G. Durand, Wheaton, Mikasa, Sango, Chicago Cutlery, Oneida, Revere, Mirro, and Farberware. Four turns per year

“Our concept is to offer a large selection at a fair price in an atmosphere that makes it easy to buy,” according to Garrison, who has held merchandising posts at Lazarus, Goldsmith’s and May Co.

Although Garrison declines to discuss margins, he says goods sold at Table Top Plus retail “in the small ballpark” as department stores’ promotional priced goods. “We won’t charge keystone and freight and last year’s markdowns,” he says. “We’re an off-price–a low margin retailer.”

Although some goods may move faster, Table Top Plus hopes to turn stock four times a year on average, according to Garrison. He compared Table Top Plus to Toys ‘R Us and Linens ‘N Things, whose stores have been characterized as specialty supermarkets. “They have a huge assortment and big impact. Impact display is retailing of the 80’s.”

Garrison says the concept for Table Top Plus was carefully researched, planned and executed by Doody Retail Ventures Inc., a division of the Doody Co., which is a Columbus-Ohio-based retail design and consulting firm. Doody Retail Venture’s services include store planning, space productivity planning, fixturing and store installation. Doody did design

The layout and design of Table Top Plus was developed by Albert F. Doody, president of Doody Retail Ventures. Doody is known by many in the retail trade for developing the concept of “race track store” layouts for several national mass merchants. He also developed the design of such discount specialty stores as Linens ‘N Things.

Table Top Plus has been in the planning stages since November 1981 by Doody Retail, and since 1982 by Garrison.

Setting a place in

Perhaps the key distinguishing mark between the Atlanta-based store and other retail operations, according to Garrison, is that Table Top Plus implements mass merchandising strategies while carrying brand-name product lines.

“Our role … is to combine good value and sharp prices with fine quality manufacturers,” Garrison says. “We wouldn’t do well with Waterford, but we expect to do tonnage with Durand.

“I believe in high velocity,” Garrison adds. “To grow with us, resources will have to deliver.

“Replenishment is a big part of the success of an operation like ours,” Garrison continues. “Getting into businesses as they become important, and staying in them, is the secret.”

The only housewares business Table Top Plus is not pursuing is electrics, according to Garrison.

“I think the only way to buy electrics is through catalogs. The mini-travel iron is the only exception to this, and it did okay, but we will not continue with the item,” he says.

A particularly fast-moving category at Table Top Plus, Garrison says, is gadgets. “We’ll be adding two more bays to our gadget section. It is a great category; we can’t get it stocked fast enough.”

Other strong movers include mugs, barware and giftware, he says. Warehouse with music

Merchandise at Table Top Plus is stacked on built-in wall shelves rising from the floor to the ceiling. Each product category is identified with a big chalkboard. The sign lists the product classification and vendors and prices within that classification. for instance, glassware is listed at the top of a list that includes Libbey, Anchor, Durand and Wheaton, $7.99 to $9.99 for boxed sets.

Other product categories include dinnerware, from Crown Ming, Queens Lace, Mikasa and Sango; and flatware-cutlery from Oneida and Chicago Cutlery.

Besides built-in wall shelves, free-standing floor displays also are used to merchandise products at Table Top Plus. The fixtures are designed so shoppers can see the front of the displays as they come in and as they leave. The idea is to get customers to buy more products, Garrison explains.

The overall impression of Table Top Plus is that of a warehouse exposed ceilings, halite lighting and a scraped cement floor–but with background music.

Manager’s Specials, dumps or closeouts are displayed at the store entrance. Bulk pieces, individually marked, are located in open cartons. There also are boxed sets, depending on the merchandise offered at the time.

Offering boxed sets as well as bulk pieces sets Table Top Plus apart from department stores and discounters, according to Garrison. “If we showed only boxed glassware for example, we would be just like the chain stores. So we mark the products individually for bulk sales. We can charge less for bulk glasses too,” he says.

There are no “cute” environmental department displays and probably never will be at Table Top Plus, Garrison points out. “We don’t want to give the “mama-papa” or cook store-ish effect.”