We’ve talked about walking your retailer’s aisles with your merchant. We’ve even discussed strategies for conducting effective store walks at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Shouldn’t this process be more or less identical when it comes to that Midwestern retail powerhouse, Menards? While many of your goals may be the same across retailers, it’s important to understand that Menards is a little different — so your approach should be, too.
With massive stores that can be up to twice the size of Lowe’s and Depot locations, home improvement brands that sell into Menards can expect to share the store with pet supplies, clothing, groceries and so much more. A store walk of this scope calls for a solid game plan. Here’s what retail professionals need to know so they can identify hands-on opportunities and take the most useful insights back to their teams.
1. Leave your camera behind.
Most of the key differences between Menards and other retailers are rooted in the philosophy of Menards. The intensely value-driven chain is privately held, which means that it may be more protective of its retail space than Lowe’s, Home Depot, or Walmart.
Keep this in mind when you’re deciding how to document your findings during your store walk. It may be best to opt for thorough notes over photos or video.
2. Scope out Menards’ seasonal inventory.
Menards’ vast square footage allows it to offer Midwesterners an unmatched selection of seasonal decor and lightning deals on top of their permanent assortment. One of the first tasks of store walking Menards is determining which SKUs are temporary and which are there to stay — and evaluating that assortment in the context of your brand’s goals at retail.
Brands offering seasonal items or hoping to liquidate inventory are likely to find more inroads at Menards than at other retailers. Explore your category and take note of which products are selling through and which are stagnating. You may uncover opportunities to take advantage of Menards’ constantly rotating stock.
3. Prepare for a huge assortment.
Part of what sets Menards apart is its commitment to variety. The retailer not only strives to be a one-stop shop, but also the place that consumers go to locate items they couldn’t find at Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Its openness to new inventory can be a double-edged sword for new vendors. While there may be more opportunities to get your brand on shelves, there is also a high standard for meaningful differentiation from competitors. As you go about your store walk, pay particular attention to line assortment strategies. Because Menards doesn’t cap the number of SKUs in a given category, price progressions are typically stacked. Be prepared to get creative in how you attack the gaps and add value.
4. Notice expansion opportunities.
Part of the joy of store walking Menards is the high likelihood that you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. Menards doesn’t pigeonhole vendors, which means that successful brands often see the retailer as an opportunity to introduce new SKUs and expand into new product categories.
Menards’ mission to be a leader in variety means that it is always hungry for new products. To keep winning in the Midwest, you have to keep innovating. Make sure to include adjacent product categories in your store walk — you may notice growth opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily be feasible with a different retailer.
5. Focus on ways to add value.
Pros and DIYers alike rely on Menards to offer the best prices on the products they need. Part of succeeding on its shelves is applying its value-driven approach across your entire price spectrum.
Take a hard look at your category and notice what other brands are doing (or not doing) to appeal to the price-conscious consumer. Relatively simple strategies like offering value packs can give you a competitive edge in a saturated retail space.
6. Give yourself plenty of time.
If you’re going to store walk Menards, wear comfortable shoes. At around 200,000 square feet and famously labyrinthine in design, it can take significantly longer to explore Menards than Walmart, Lowe’s or Depot.
Because lightning deals and seasonal offerings are updated frequently and can vary from store to store, there is always something new to take in. Keep an open mind and try to reserve judgment on what is and isn’t relevant to your product category. At Menards, inspiration can strike anywhere.
7. Allow for Menards merchants’ packed schedules.
All retail merchants maintain tight schedules, but this may go double for Menards. Part of establishing a successful partnership is understanding just how much Menards merchants have on their plates. Between sheer inventory volume and a very cost-conscious business model, they are typically responsible for multiple packed product categories.
These merchants are expected to maintain their own rigorous store walk schedule, so it’s important to do your homework, have your facts in order, and be a clear and direct communicator in your interactions with them. Knowing which categories your merchant oversees and what their goals are not only makes you a better partner at retail — it can uncover opportunities to innovate and expand.
8. Have fun.
From flooring to kids’ toys to shampoo, Menards is all about expecting the unexpected. The possibility of an unbeatable one-time deal keeps Midwesterners coming back for more, and the steady influx of novel products makes the retailer a destination for families.
Embrace the experience and make the most of your store walk. You’re guaranteed to leave with insights, ideas and the Save Big Money at Menards jingle stuck in your head for days.
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