TARGET HITS THE MARK; BED BATH & BEYOND OFFERS EXTENSIVE VARIETY.
Proximity: The home products section is at the back of the store from the parking-lot entrance, but it is the first area when the store is entered from the mall. Various categories are located under large signs -- Furniture, Bedding, Bath and Kitchen -- hanging from the ceiling that are visible from the front of the store.
Merchandising: The bath line is extensive, especially in terms of hard accessories. A double aisle, approximately 28 feet long, holds a total of 44 full ensembles on shelves on either side. Products (displayed from eye-level down) include shower curtains, towels, wallpaper borders, hard accessories and bath rugs. In the full-ensemble lines, product was private-labeled, most under the Bath Coordinates brand. Products are clearly marked and priced, and shelves are neat and well-stocked.
Selection: The accessories included a range of materials and styles: glass, stoneware, ceramics (handpainted and solid colored), metallics, resin and acrylics. Most included a tumbler, toothbrush holder, lotion dispenser, soap dish, waste basket and tissue holder. Some offered various-shaped trays.
A frosted-glass group in a pale green and amethyst was tagged $8.99 for a tumbler, the complementary shower curtain was $24.99, an embellished hand towel was $4.99 and a jacquard woven bath towel was $14.99. Two complementary rugs were offered: a printed nylon for $19.99 and a solid-colored, 100-percent cotton for $14.99.
Most of the groupings had similar elements -- often two shower curtains, towels and rugs -- that all worked well together for a mix-and-match assortment. Most groups had similar pricing.
The facing aisle displayed novelty and juvenile styles. Daisy Brights featured bright blue accessories with white flower accents. A printed rug, branded DuPont nylon, was priced at $14.99 in a 22-by-34, and a second complementary rug featured a tufted pattern of flowers on a blue field.
Packages of novelty and gift soaps were hung next to complementary styles, such as shell-shaped soaps, next to an ensemble called Seascapes. Juvenile styles included licensed designs featuring Tweety and Winnie the Pooh.
Separated from the full ensembles by a double aisle of accent rugs and facing door mats, another group of solid-color bath products was displayed with ceramic accessories and coordinating rugs. In 15 colors, Elegance shower curtains by Ex-Cell were priced at $19.99; Elegance bath towels by Lady Pepperell were $7.99 for bath size and Elegance rugs by Aladdin in 100 percent DuPont nylon. While the ceramic accessories were somewhat smaller, these accessories were well-colored, and pieces were priced for $3.49 and $4.99.
Four more aisles contained even more solid-color bath towels and rugs from suppliers, including Acclaim towels by St. Mary's, with Classic bath rugs from Aladdin; Royal Legacy towels by WestPoint Stevens paired with Royal Legacy cotton loop rugs; Serenity towels by Cannon with reversible cotton rugs; and Opulence towels from WestPoint with fun nylon shag rugs by Georgia Tufters.
Service: No sales help approached in the 30 minutes the shopper was in the Bath department.
Best Point: There was a surprisingly wide assortment of well-priced accessories and complementary soft goods.
Room for Improvement: Sales staff could be more available.
Bed Bath & Beyond
Proximity: Entering from the parking lot, this store is somewhat confusing, with a dizzying assortment of "beyond" product and no clear signage directing traffic to bed or bath. A helpful salesperson who was close by guided the shopper back toward the rear of the store, where the bath areas were located.
Merchandising: As typical of other Bed Bath & Beyond stores the shopper has visited, the layout is a series of three-sided boxes facing onto a wide center aisle. The area containing ensembles was located across from a towel section and a bath and accent rug department.
About 28 coordinated groups were displayed along two of the three walls, which are approximately 20 feet long. The third wall was dedicated to an assortment of hard accessories.
The shower curtains are displayed in groups of three different styles in similar colorations or, as with Springs' Amalfi ensemble, three colorations of the same style. The full length of each curtain is shown in widths of about 3 to 4 feet. Immediately below the curtains, coordinating or complementary hard accessories are shown, then some towels, and at the bottom, rugs are occasionally shown.
The shower curtains are clearly identified, and some labels carry the notation: "Coordinating Towels Available." For most styles, a sign is posted listing the products and prices available.
Assortment: There is a wider variety of hard accessories rather than of soft goods, including many ceramic, stoneware, glass, wood, rattan, metallic and resin sets. Shower-curtain prices ranged from Sandstone by Springs for $24.99 and Palisades by Croscill for $39.99 to Dun Hill by Croscill for $49.99. Accessory prices were about $12.99 an item and up.
Suppliers for full ensembles included Springs, Croscill, Bacova Guild, Creative Bath and India Ink. One three-style grouping had juvenile styles: two Winnie the Pooh patterns by Springs and Fish Menagerie by Bacova.
The center of the department is filled with double-sided displays overflowing with a wide assortment of hard accessories. Impulse items -- such as tub stoppers, natural woven baskets and water-proof clocks -- are displayed on endcaps. The items on the interior units range from inexpensive plastic items -- a tumbler for $2.99 -- to a midpriced frosted-glass tumbler for $7.99 and much more expensive styles in ceramic, metals, resin and acrylic.
The towel department is also three-sided, with display units in the center. Only towels are shown, but proximity with rugs and accessories makes finding complementary product fairly easy.
Towel collections on the wall included Hotel Towel by Espalma; Indulgence by Chartex; Supima Classic by Fieldcrest; Excellence by Martex; Regency by Fieldcrest; and Embellished towels by Avanti. In the neighboring rug area, the corresponding Regency by Fieldcrest rugs were available, along with solid-color cottons from Newmark, Petaluma/Maui by Regal and Wamsutta Select. Bath towel prices ranged from $17.99 for the embellished styles to several collections priced at $7.99
Service: Sales help was available and offered in a courteous manner.
Best Point: The variety of hard accessories is extensive and seeing shower curtains hanging full-size gives a better idea of style than a picture can give. The range of towels and rugs is broad, in separate departments.
Room for Improvement: More choices in shower curtains and easier coordination might be helpful. The present setup forces consumers to spend more time trying to find complementary products.