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Sweetbay Superstar Broader Moves to Michaels Craft Stores

Shelley Broader, who transformed Delhaize's moribund Kash n' Karry into the vibrant Sweetbay Supermarket chain, will become president and COO of Michaels Stores, the nation's largest retailer of arts and crafts supplies.

Broader follows Michaels CEO Brian Cornell from selling tomatoes and Tide to beads and scrapbook pages. Cornell took over Michaels a year ago, moving from the chief marketing officer role at Safeway, where he championed the supermarket's "Ingredients for Life" rebranding, lifestyle store redesign and expansion of private label offerings such as O Organics.

Bottle's Kevin Coupe calls the pair "one hell of an executive team."

In 2004, Delhaize sent Broader from Hannaford Bros. to fix Tampa-based Kash n' Karry. She decided instead to blow it up and start over. Redesigned from its light fixtures to its management methods, Sweetbay Supermarket has won accolades for its focus on compelling lifestyle trends -- wellness, quick meal preparation, ethnic and fresh foods.

"(Kash n' Karry) was a broken brand," Broader told the Tampa Tribune. "It was an unprofitable company. It had negative brand equity. It had negative consumer images. It had gone through multiple ownership changes and leadership changes and had really lost its brand cachet and its customer base." She leaves Sweetbay the No. 5 supermarketer in Florida with 106 stores.

So what are the commonalities between Sweetbay and Safeway groceries and Michaels' craft supplies?

  • The shopper demographic is identical -- 18- to 54-year-old women with similar spending profiles.
  • Both are considered "aspirational" categories -- shoppers are looking for ways to eat better, look better, make their homes nicer, and do more with their children.
  • Crafts such as beading and knitting have undergone a resurgence among younger women, who look for more sophisticated materials and projects than your grandma's crocheted toilet paper holders.
  • In lean times, just as restaurant numbers are declining and meals at home are increasing, handmade gifts and decor are gaining favor.
Blackstone Group and Bain Capital took Michaels private in 2006 in a $6 billion buyout. Results since the mid-2000s have been tepid to awful, but Cornell reflects optimism.

In an earnings call May 29, Cornell pointed to consumer research led by another Safeway alumnus, Stuart Hagen, who leads Michaels' consumer strategy practice, including category management, card and loyalty marketing, and data mining. Category management efforts have been prioritized by importance to the customer, with resets in wall framing, scrapbooking, and kids' craft items, and more attention paid to areas that young crafters like, including jewelry and wedding items.

In May, Michaels launched The Knack, which offers ideas and discounts to parents and teachers. Materials to make pirate hats and rocket ships (above) come from a new Crayola store-in-store with 250 SKUs. Sales results are starting to flow in. "It's a basket we really like," Cornell told analysts. "We've got a much better understanding of what's working. I think we're getting a lot smarter on a weekly basis."

Image: Two-liter soda bottle rocket from The Knack

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