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Bob Couch, Shopko, Category Manager, Furniture, Lighting And Home Décor

The July 18 issue of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® features the 17th annual Impact Merchants special report. Housewares suppliers, representing the categories that HomeWorld covers, once again were asked to nominate buyers and merchandisers believed to have made a significant impact during the past year.

The selection of the 18 Impact Merchant winners is not intended as a definitive list of the best merchants in housewares retailing. Votes went to several more merchandisers than those featured. This year’s honorees represent buyers in given categories that received the majority of votes by vendors polled.

Voters were asked to give added weight to merchandising creativity, trend and marketing astuteness, attention to detail, openness to risk, flexibility, relationship building and the ability to deliver a profitable program for both the vendors and retailer while providing value to consumers. One thing this year’s Impact Merchants share is a vote of respect by their vendors. In today’s unpredictable retail environment, that vote really counts.

Bob Couch, Shopko, Category Manager, Furniture, Lighting and Home Décor

Mass market furniture has changed dramatically over the past 10 years, but Shopko’s place in it has remained firm, in part due to Bob Couch. Shopko’s category manager for furniture, lighting and home décor, Couch oversees an operation that is a point of differentiation for the company.

In its discount stores, furniture commands a significant proportion of floor space and runs from sofas to home accents. Even in its much smaller, 15,000 to 35,000 square foot Hometown format locations, furniture has an important role and merchandising even includes a few upholstered pieces as well as boxed ready-to-assemble items. Even as the bricks-and-mortar business shifts to the smaller format, Shopko is investing in online operations and has added a ship-to-store option, making the furnishings business more dynamic.

Keeping furnishings selling consistently and profitably is a crucial task and, vendors said, Couch is up to it. In fact, one vendor identified Couch as “head and shoulders above the rest,” citing his long standing in the category and the understanding that comes with it.

“Bob is a throwback kind of guy who really understands his consumer and knows how to use all of his resources,” the vendor said. “His department is really working well.”

Another vendor underscored that Couch has stabilized and balanced furniture operations in Shopko’s diverse formats and improved the look of the category on sales floors, “while not losing sight of the value/price relationship of the Shopko customer. Bob’s communication with the vendor community is outstanding, with very clear, goal-oriented merchandise and pricing direction.”

2016 HomeWorld Business Impact Merchants (click on name for profile):