TAILGAITING BLOOMS IN WALMART GARDEN CENTERS
Just in time to capitalize on the traditional fall football frenzy, Walmart has transformed more than 1,700 of its Garden Centers into “Game Time Headquarters”—a department aimed at tailgating enthusiasts.
Beginning the last week in August and running through Sept. 30, select stores have customized their Garden Centers for fans of local college or professional football teams with items ranging from team merchandise and decor to game-time snacks and beverages.
The goal? To capitalize on the $20-billion-dollar tailgating industry.
Walmart Garden Centers will continue to sell an assortment of mums and other fall plants, as well as year-round items like bird seed, during this promotion.
“Since the Garden Centers have great space flexibility, we are able to include this merchandise along with the Game Time features,” said Shannon Frederick, Walmart’s senior communications manager. After Game Time, she added, the stores will begin preparing the Garden Centers for the holiday selling.
Among the Game Time products the Bentonville, Ark. -based retailer is merchandising are hats, T-shirts, charcoal grills and coolers, as well as food items like hot dogs, chicken breasts, chips, potato skins and soda. There are team logoed coffee mugs for $15, arm chairs for $20, jerseys for $30 and gazebos for $157.
“I think it’s a great idea, especially for a seasonal business,” said John Largent, who founded the American Tailgater’s Association in 2003. “The beginning of football season is a pivotal time for tailgaters to buy new grills, accessories and other items. It’s exciting to see Walmart recognize tailgating as an industry and a viable marketing opportunity.”
According to tailgating.com , 42 percent of tailgaters spend more than $500 each season on food and supplies. Walmart says it can provide a group of four with everything it needs to tailgate at six home games this season for about $66 per game—a savings of more than $100 for the season.
The 1,700 Game Time locations are distributed around the country in areas near large fan bases for college or professional sports teams.
“With 36 million tailgaters in the U.S., the kick-off to football season is now one of our favorite all-American pastimes,” said Janet Bareis, vp -corporate marketing for Walmart. “But we know our job on the team is to make sure tailgaters don’t spend a dime more than they need to—that’s why we’ve put together some winning prices all in one place in the store.”
According to Largent, Walmart won’t be facing too much competition in the marketplace. While there are Web sites that specialize in tailgating equipment and some sporting goods stores and supermarket s that devote space to it on a seasonal basis, Walmart is the first major retailer to target the industry, he said.
Keith DeWolf, manager of Home & Garden Showplace, the garden center division of True Value, declined to comment on Walmart’s announcement, but he did say there is a place for this type of creativity within the diverse garden center industry. “There are some garden centers that would definitely have the space for [a tailgating section],” he said. “If they’re in the right location, it might be a good side business.”
As part of the Walmart promotion, the company also launched a new product called the Game Time tailgate planner, a widget that allows users to download a team’s schedule and create and send e-mail invitations to friends for game day events and tailgating parties.
Walmart has also designated a Game Time page on its Web site with chicken wing and dip recipes and links to related categories at Walmart store, including cook ware, home entertainment furnishings, sports apparel, video games and hi-def televisions.
Former Westlake execs open True Value store
Former Westlake Ace Hardware executives Brian Richards and Scott Westlake have formed their own True Value hardware chain, called SCW. The first store opened Aug. 30 in Overland Park, Kan.
Called Nuts and Bolts, the store is 51,000 square feet, about three times the size of a traditional True Value outlet. A second, 28,000-square-foot Nuts and Bolts is set to open sometime in September in Independence, Mo.
Both stores are based on the Destination True Value format, which emphasizes small projects and offers a broad product selection in core hardware categories that can be adapted to the needs of the individual store.
In addition to the traditional hardware departments, Nuts and Bolts offers a 4,000-square-foot customer service center where customers can get glass and keys cut, window screens repaired and knifes and scissors sharpened. The store has about 40 employees.
Richards, the company president, spent more than 30 years with Westlake — a 90-store chain with stores in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico — before partnering with Scott Westlake, the grandson of Westlake Ace’s founder.
Toll Brothers posts third-quarter loss
Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest home builders with a specialty in luxury homes, saw third-quarter losses of $29.3 million, plummeting from earnings of $26.5 million in the same period last year.
The Horsham, Pa.-based builder recorded a hefty $139.4 million pre-tax charge, $33.4 million of which was attributed to failed joint venture agreements. For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the builder has generated losses totaling $219 million.
Home-building revenues totaled $1.24 billion in the third quarter, down 31 percent from $1.8 billion in the same period last year.
Robert Toll, chairman and CEO for Toll Brothers, pulled no punches in his assessment of the results: “We are now completing the third year of the worst housing market since we started in 1967,” he said.
“Weak consumer confidence has kept many potential buyers from taking advantage of the current buyers’ market,” he noted. “We believe that most big public builders have sold off most of their inventory, which eventually should help stabilize home prices. However, we currently have to contend with foreclosures as the new low-priced competition.”