Retail audit/Sara Surber


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For marketing consumer behavior I conducted a retail audit of T.J. Max along with two other classmates.

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Retail audit/Sara Surber

  1. 1. Gillian Whittaker<br />Sara Surber<br />Darryl Hunter<br />3/15/10<br />Dr. Morgan<br />MAR 3503<br />Retail Audit: TJ Maxx<br />Introduction<br />TJ Maxx is a retail store that specializes in discount designer goods ranging from clothing and apparel for the whole family, house wares, luggage, cosmetics, fine jewelry, shoes, furniture, and electronics. They offer designers goods that are offered in more upscale stores like Dillard’s, Pier 1 Imports, JC Penney, American Eagle, DKNY, Roxy/Quiksilver, Nine West and Michael Kors to name a few. Their competitive advantage is their ability to charge lower prices but the twist is that some of the merchandise is from previous seasons or something that is no longer being produced. Other discount retailers like Big Lots and Tuesday Morning would be their other competitors. <br />TJ Maxx is divided into two primary divisions. Mostly known for its designer apparel and accessories at bargain prices, it also consists of home goods comprised of cookware, artwork, mirrors, dishware, specialty food items (coffee, candy, preserves, syrups, oils, chocolates, crackers, nuts, pastas, sauces, cocoas), cookbooks, kitchen utensils, nick-naks, rugs, décor, glasses, trunks, tables, and furniture.<br />Since TJ Maxx’s merchandise is a random assortment of brands from hundreds of different stores you never know what you’re going to find when you visit their store. They are not a typical department store that has specific merchandise for each season and it can be chaotic. Our group felt that TJ Maxx would be a good candidate for a retail audit and is in need of some process improvement to create a better shopping experience for its customers. <br />ObservationDate/Length of timeGillianSaturday, January 30, 2010- 2.5 hoursSaraWednesday, February 10, 2010- 3 hoursSunday, April 4, 2010-3.5 hoursSaturday, April 10, 2010-2.5 hoursDarrylFriday, March 26, 2010-2 hoursSaturday, March 27, 2010-1.5 hours<br />In order to gather data for this project we decided that observation was the best technique to utilize. The store located on Davis Hwy. is large enough to observe and blend into the sea of shoppers and not be noticed. When Gillian went to observe she participated in some mystery shopping as well. <br />Store Location description<br />The shopping experience at TJ Maxx began as soon as you pulled into the parking lot. The lot was free of potholes and appeared as if it had recently been redone which created a pleasant start to shop. The store is located in a shopping center with other stores so a bit of navigation is needed in order to be positioned closest to the store. There were shopping cart corrals in the lot which was convenient and prevented the shopper from having to take their cart all the way back inside the store after shopping. <br />The fact that the store is located just off of a major highway makes it easy to locate. However, the fact there are no visible signs from the highway and the front of the store is not visible from the highway makes the store difficult for prospective customers to see who might not necessarily be looking for it. This could result in a loss of business from people who are unfamiliar with the stores exact location.<br />Transition Zone<br />The entrance of the store needed to be updated to match the new parking lot. As you walked up you noticed that the area around the doors was dirty and there was some trash on the ground. The area was not filthy but it did look like it has not been attended to in quite some time. Surrounding the entrance and exit doors there was some signage that didn’t get your attention advertising a 10% discount on purchases made by senior citizens on Mondays. This might signify a large elderly demographic that shops at the store.<br />There were two sets of double glass doors making up the entrance and exit of the store. The doors are not automated which made it difficult to open if you grabbed a cart from the parking lot because the door swings out, not in, which is awkward to juggle. Once you manage to get inside there is another door to open which is again difficult. This middle area between the outside and inside of the store was dingy as well with black carpet covered in lint and some trash. There were only three large glass windows to the left of the exit doors throughout the whole store. There were also 3 chairs connected that were available for seating. On one Saturday when we observed the store the whole bench was full and the area was crowded. After wrestling with the doors and the cart you manage to get into the store.<br />Once inside the front doors there were shopping carts located directly between the entrance and exit doors. The area leading to these carts was cluttered by merchandise and very difficult to access. When visiting the store on a Wednesday afternoon there were only three carts on the inside of the store available in this area. There were also a couple of baskets located directly after the front entrance toward the middle of the transition zone located approximately 1.5 feet off the ground forcing customers to crouch down to pick them up. <br />The entrance had three paintings on the left hand side and objects of accessories on the right. The entrance was very simple and laid back, having the paintings in the front door gave a classic look that was very nice. The transition zone was covered with eye catching items. To the far right was the jewelry counter and behind that was the purse, luggage, and handbag section. To the far right was a large table of Valentine’s Day gifts ranging from chocolate gift baskets to decorations and colorful boxes. Directly in front of the entrance were several small display tables and clothing racks with new merchandise including jackets and dresses, picture frames, and a variety of drink mixes like margarita packages, martini glasses, and books on serving up fruity cocktails. Slightly to the right of these displays was the beginning of the women’s apparel starting with junior’s tops. TJ Maxx did a good job of displaying a variety of products from the get go that would appeal to multiple demographics. There was adequate space to move around and enter the traffic that was already in the store. <br />Traffic Flow<br />Directly after the transition zone was a three foot by nine foot mat ending with a display of furniture that aided in stopping customers by slowing their pace and guiding them to the right side of the store. The right side of the store consisted of the women’s section which made up the majority of customers shopping in the store. The men’s section was located to the left and not easily accessed directly after entering the store. The path leading to the men’s section was obstructed by numerous signs, clothing racks, and extensive displays preceding the checkout counters. The home goods section was located straight ahead and towards the back of the store with fewer obstructions making it a smoother direction of possible traffic flow upon the entering the store. <br />Most female customers were automatically drawn to the right side of the store which encompassed everything necessary to catch this demographics attention. At the beginning of the women’s section was, of course, the jewelry counter with fashionable earrings, necklaces and bracelets dangling from displays atop glass counters filled with dazzling accessories. Next to these counters were displays of clothing accessories from wallets, purses, hats, scarves, and belts. This was followed by the dreadful dressing rooms which neighbored the shoe section. Most of the clothing was arranged in racks at the center of the store. <br />Due to the large size of the store people seem to go in many different directions upon entering. Women seemed to go more to the right where the jewelry, handbags, and clothing were located. Men seemed to wander to the right and center in the direction of men’s apparels and house wares. Families with small children and strollers were pulled in all directions not knowing exactly where to start their trip, even though mom was usually guiding the group. Going counterclockwise traffic seemed to pick up substantially with women weaving in and out of displays and aisles and avoiding things that had fallen off shelves and been dropped, like clothing on hangers. The fragrance and beauty department seemed very chaotic with tables and shelves overflowing with items that were not always in defined categories. This caused women to briefly stop and browse the items but as they began to pick items up others would fall. This occurred a couple of times and then they moved on. Other women were not put off at all by having to dig around and drop some things in the process. They were on a hunt to find treasure in the bottom of the wallet bin. <br />Most men upon entering the store followed to the left hand side. Men moved very quickly depending on the area. In the clothing area most men moved rather quickly only looking at certain areas that interested them such as particular shirts, pants, and shorts. In the area of accessories men tended to look longer. Men usually didn’t follow a similar path, they more so scattered from one place to the next. <br />In the luggage department, one woman was looking at large suitcases and pulling all of the ones she was interested in off of the shelves, placing them on the floor and unzipping each. There were many shoppers who could not move through the rest of the aisles because she was blocking their way. She was oblivious to most of this because she was bent over with her head near the floor touching every surface inside of each suitcase. Another woman that she was shopping with came over and they began discussing the suitcases and touching them even more. After fifteen minutes of this they decided on one very large rolling suitcase but they left several others on the floor that blocked the aisle for other shoppers. This pattern seemed to occur more than once in the store. <br />Overall, it seemed that most shoppers followed similar paths and mimicked what they saw other shoppers doing. If one young girl observed another young girl looking through a rack of shoes that were marked on sale as soon as she could get to the display she looked through them too. Traffic flow became more and more congested in areas of the store where there were large displays between narrow aisles. A large wooden canopy was on display complete with an outdoor heater, ceramic bench, outdoor grill, and a display of cooking accessories. This entire display was in a crowded area and made people steer their carts through the canopy. This did seem like an effective tool to make shoppers take notice of the canopy and accessories that went with it. However, some customers wanted to bypass it all together and they forced their way around it and bumped into other displays, but they did not care. <br />Crowding<br />The butt-brush effect did exist in some crowded areas of the store. This happened mostly in the aisles where women’s apparel was because there were so many different types and they did not have adequate space to display it all. Men’s and children’s apparel was less crowded because it was much smaller compared to women’s. Most women were not put off by brushing into other people if they were shopping intently. The women who were casually browsing seemed to fall victim to the butt-brush effect possibly because they were not willing to be bumped into if they were only browsing. During Saturday afternoon observation traffic and crowding seemed to be a big problem because there were so many customers. It seemed as though if TJ Maxx would reposition many areas of the store and took extra space away from areas that were less visited like the bedding and cooking supply area they could expand the busier sections like apparel and beauty goods.<br />Most crowding took place in the women’s clothing section; aisles were wider in the home goods section. The space between clothing racks averaged 1.5 feet to 2 feet wide, leaving only enough space for one person to browse on either side of one rack at a time. Many of the female customers toting children had to leave their children in their carts or strollers to browse the clothing area. This obviously caused a lack of focus on perusing items when they kept looking over at their children every few seconds to check on them. Some women left the carts directly in front of aisle blocking accessibility for any other customers. The shoe aisles were respectively 3 feet wide but also very narrow. Although women with children were allowed to maneuver carts in these areas there lacked a reasonable amount of space between items on the shelf and the reach of their toddlers. Several children kept grabbing items off shelves and throwing them on the floor. Similar to the butt-brush effect, women became agitated by this and abandoned certain crowded areas altogether. Around 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon there were around 35-40 people shopping in the clothing and shoe store alone. <br />The aisles in the men’s section were not very adequate; they only allowed one person at a time down each row of clothing. Customers got into each other’s way. Bumping into each other caused customers to feel uncomfortable. On Tuesday crowding was not an issue. However, on Friday crowding became a major issue in the men’s area between 4 p.m. and 5p.m.<br />Accessibility<br />Since the store did not have automatic doors they were already creating problems for disabled people to comfortably access the store. The bathrooms were a big problem because they were disgusting! The smell lingered far outside of the doors of both the men’s and women’s restroom. They did have a handicapped stall available in the bathroom, but the smell of the bathroom in general was awful. Even though it was a busy Saturday afternoon at the store they could certainly make an effort to keep the restroom clean and presentable, rather than turn away customers who think cleanliness is important to their shopping experience. The fitting rooms were quite extensive with over 20 rooms and the handicapped accessible one located in the very front of the rooms. The checkout counters are set very low which assists people in wheelchairs. <br />Shopper Demographics<br />There was such a wide variety of customers ranging from families with kids and strollers, elderly women, teenagers to twenty-something’s, and lots of single women and men. A large factor in the variety of shoppers is due to the day of the week, on Saturday’s most people don’t have work and kids are out of school which means they can come shopping with mom and dad. We previously mentioned the bench in the front of the store which was over capacity. There were no women in that area which leads us to believe that women are the ones who are doing the majority of the shopping and the buying. The men might be coming to offer a second opinion before a purchase is made or to be in charge of the kids so the women can concentrate on their purchases. The checkout line was never as full as one would it expect it to be for the amount of people milling about the store. <br />This might demonstrate the fact that most people are browsing and shopping rather than actually buying and making purchases. TJ Maxx does a good job of offering products for a wide range of consumers; however they do seem to offer more products for women like shoes, jewelry, purses, and beauty products. This also could be a result of the fact that women do shop more than men so TJ Maxx feels that they are effectively targeting the type of shopper that is most likely to turn into a buyer and a frequent customer. They definitely excel in offering products for a number of age groups from children to teens, twenty-something’s, middle age men and women, and senior citizens. In each department there are products that cater specifically to people in each of these markets. Furthermore, a woman of 35 could shop for herself, her husband, her children, and even her parents because they feature designer products for all of those age demographics. This makes them more likely to sell more products per customer because they can shop for more people than just themselves each visit. <br />The type of customers that I viewed while in TJ Maxx seemed to be men ranging from 25 to 40 years of age. It seemed like in the men’s area they were targeting men in their 30’s and could improve by adding a larger scale of casual wear.<br />Signage<br />TJ Maxx does need to improve the locations and quality of their signage. Above each department in the store they have a sign marking what and where everything is located. They also have larger signs that mark special sales and savings for each season. Some of these signs block the department signs leaving customers in the dark about certain products. It makes no sense to put up another sign that will block the view of an original sign. They need to carefully plan the location of their existing signs and their sale and seasonal signage. Some of the department signs are newer than others and are in different fonts. The newer ones are easier to read but they do not match the other ones that are difficult to see from a distance.<br />One example of misplaced signage was a rack displaying Dereon brand clothing which featured Seven7 skinny jeans, Disney clothing, Passport and Dereon clothing. Another rack labeled pants only consisted of six pairs of pants, the rest of the apparel was comprised of crop pants, capris and shorts.<br />Checkout<br />TJ Maxx recently remodeled their checkout area and created a long line that displays goods on each side of the walkway leading up to the counters where a sign tells each customer when and where to checkout. For example, after waiting in line to checkout and reaching the counter, once a checkout station is open the sign will show the station number that it open and it will also say the number several times. If the station is more towards the end, usually the employee waves their hand to show the customer where they are located. The walkway that leads to this area is stocked with many sale and seasonal items that can be touched and picked up while waiting in line. The shelves give the customer something to look at while waiting in line, which is something they have to do anyway. All of the merchandise is small and easy to pick up and continue to hold while waiting to checkout. TJ Maxx gets one more opportunity to display their goods before you checkout. It is very likely that their sales have increased since implementing this new strategy. Waiting time does seem to be less since they have expanded and added more checkout stations and more employees at each more frequently. <br /> <br />