From furniture to flannel shirts.
Kroger Marketplace stores announced Thursday they would abandon furniture sections in favor of apparel.
Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has two of the supermarket/general merchandise outlets at 601 E. Dupont Road and 5725 Coventry Lane.
The retailer opened the first Marketplace in Indiana in Fort Wayne in September 2011. The second Marketplace debuted in October 2012. Four additional Indiana stores have been announced in Fishers, Indianapolis and Columbus.
Each will employ about 350 and equals an economic investment of more than $20 million.
By November, Kroger will stock Champion, Hanes Classics, Jockey Activewear, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co., Gloria Vanderbilt, Carhartt, Dickies, Fila and others.
And while furniture sales will be cheered by bargain-hunters, the move reveals the difficulty of adding new lines, said Theresa Williams, director of Center for Education and Research in Retailing at Indiana University.
“They were looking to strengthen their profit margins because the margins in grocery goods are razor thin,” she said. “Kroger's private-label food brands are what it has going for it. They may develop their own private-label clothes brand because they would stand to do better that way.”
In 2013, Kroger said its annual sales reached $98.4 million, while same-store sales last year increased 3.6 percent.
Spokesman John Elliott said the furniture line is not a failure and will continue at other locations nationwide. No layoffs will occur at the Fort Wayne Marketplace stores, which employ about 600, he said.
Elliott said he could not provide details on how steep the furniture discounts will be at the stores, which will continue to sell home, infant, office and related merchandise. The stores also have a Fred Meyer Jewelers inside.
Retiree Sandra Anderson shopped at the Kroger Marketplace at Coventry on Thursday. She isn't sad to see the furniture section go.
“I think a grocery store should be a grocery store, and a hardware store should be a hardware store,” the 63-year-old Fort Wayne resident said. “Sometimes it just seems like they're trying to do too much.”
Katie Wolfram, vice president of merchandising for Kroger's Central Division, disagrees.
“As customer needs evolve, we need to be nimble and meet those needs in order to better serve our customers,” she said.