Retail

Lincraft undergoes revamp as Australian retailers get crafty with store spaces

Emma Koehn /

Lincraft joint managing director Brian Swersky.

Lincraft joint managing director Brian Swersky. Source: Supplied

One of Australia’s major craft retailers is trimming its product lines in a number of smaller format specialty stores designed to capture shoppers in high end shopping centres – but it’s not the only business being creative with floor space.

Lincraft will cut its product range by a third in 20 stores, hoping to connect with shoppers that are in the market for knitting and sewing supplies. Joint managing director Brian Swersky told SmartCompany “the days of big barns are done” in the retail world. After scouring the globe for different models of store layouts in the DIY space, the management team decided the simpler the store product, the better.

“For us, this is to differentiate ourselves – a smaller store with more customer service,” says Swersky.

The craft supplier is not alone in its quest to make the most of bricks-and-mortar leases. Department store Myer cut away 6% of its total floor space in the last year, the first step in reducing it by 20% over the course of a five-year strategic review – including “handing back” space in Myer stores in Blacktown, Castle Hill and Cairns during 2017.

“Our commitment to improving productivity has led to a reduction of operating costs, and we remain focused on reshaping our store footprint,” chief executive Richard Umbers said in the announcement of Myer’s results for the 2016 financial year.

Meanwhile, Woolworths is sticking with convenience store-style “Metro” fit outs in capital cities, while Target’s US chief executive told the media last week “flex-format” mini stores were on the way to help the chain expand into cities where larger standalone stores aren’t possible.

Earlier this month, Kmart US stores even put up white sheets to hide the lack of stock as the retailer changed its store design in some locations from mega-retailers to standard sized Kmart fit outs.

Swersky, who bought Lincraft out of receivership in 2005 with fellow managing director John Maguire, says the key driver behind the Lincraft refit is giving customers what they see as the core range of products needed to make the projects they come into store for. The first “Essentials” style format will be in Melbourne’s Chadstone Shopping Centre, which is undergoing another round of refurbishment works at present.

“It’s about moving into these upmarket centres, where our customers are,” he says.

The process of downsizing has meant taking a long hard look at sales data and prioritising lines based on how quickly they move from the store.

“It’s about sales per square metre – and curating a range around customer needs and trends,” Swersky says.

Lincraft Essentials stores

Inside one of the Lincraft Essentials stores. Source: Supplied

In terms of craft trends, Lincraft currently faces off against the likes of Spotlight and Riot Art and Craft in a fabric retailing industry worth $2.1 billion. While the private company does not disclose details of its financial performance, it estimates it holds approximately 25% of the fabric retail market.

Swerksy says crafting genes appear to have skipped a generation, with young children now routinely coming into Lincraft stores with their grandparent carers to find the materials they need for DIY projects

“It’s really interesting to see what’s happened. My take is that now with lots of dual income parents, you have grandparents coming into the store, with kids they look after – for all those traditional crafts most often associated with 60-somethings,” he says.

While there are always ebbs and flows in popularity of different types of craft, the need for one-on-one service has remained constant.

“We have people in there with quite a bit of expertise – and libraries of patterns and ideas,” Swerksy says.

“I guess a good analogy is Bunnings – people come in with their projects and want assistance.”

But unlike Bunnings, there won’t be endless rows of sale items in supersized Lincraft sheds; the largest of the new-look stores will be 800 square metres.

“At the end of the day, we’re a component business,” Swersky says.

“We should be showing them what to do with these products.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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