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Hancock Fabrics revamping stores

BALDWYN — Hancock Fabrics is remodeling its stores and the Tupelo location is the first in the state to be revamped.

It has thousands of new items, new displays, new signs and a new layout. The store has plenty of its traditional fabric offerings, but now about 25 percent of the selling space is dedicated to craft items.

"We’re not eliminating fabric to fit this in," said Dena Livingston, Hancock’s vice president of marketing. "We’re mainly fabric. This is to enhance what our fabric customers are doing. We don’t want them to have to leave to finish a project."

The inventory additions still are being tested, Livingston said, and so far, so good.

"We did a lot of homework before we did this," she said. "We knew it was viable. We didn’t go into it blind."

Three extremely popular categories, said store manager Janiece Martin, have been cake decorating, scrapbooking and kids’ crafts. Other new categories include woodworking, paint, baskets, jewelry making and a self-framing area.

She attributed much of the popularity of do-it-yourself projects to hit reality shows such as "Project Runway," ”Cake Boss" and "Ace of Cakes."

"People have to have an outlet," Livingston told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. "They can’t afford to travel."

Martin added that she’s seeing more of her customers enter a "nesting" phase and turning to crafts and at-home projects.

The Tupelo location is one of Hancock’s larger store formats, coming in at 26,000 square feet. Livingston said that while the other stores eventually will be remodeled, they won’t necessarily look like the Tupelo store because they are smaller.

On a recent quarterly earnings call, Hancock Fabrics CEO Jane Aggers said 14 stores across the country were remodeled in April and May. She said the data is too new to see if it has improved sales in stores, but she plans to have an update at the second-quarter conference call.

In the most recent quarter, same-store sales were down 2 percent, with the company posting a $1.3 million loss for the quarter. However, Hancock in the past year has reduced its debt by $17.8 million.

Hancock’s immediate goal, according to CFO Rob Driskell, is to get to $100 of sales per square foot. Right now, Driskell said, the company is in the mid-$70s.

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