Back in 2019, arts and crafts retailer Michaels realized it had a problem. Store traffic was down, sales were down, and their usual marketing strategies weren’t working. They needed to make a change. But what?
Previously, the company’s business strategy was built on the idea that “anyone can make,” and this still helped them in the seasonal and kid categories. But when it came to core categories like jewelry-making, knitting, and technology, “we were asleep at the wheel,” said Jennifer Beesley, VP of Creative & Store Environment at Michaels, at RetailSpaces.
So Michaels decided to double down on their purpose: “We’re here for the maker.” To identify where they could improve, they turned to customer feedback:
“It feels crowded, claustrophobic.”
“I like to have a place to try new things or to sit with someone.”
“It feels too packed here. Your competitors are more spread out with larger aisles.”
With these insights in mind, the executives at Michaels looked over the company’s 1,300 store locations spread across the US and Canada—each approximately 20,000 square feet and carrying about 40,000 SKUs—and decided a redesign was in order. Michaels needed a new store concept that prioritized customers’ wants.
To design a new store, Michaels first had to reimagine the space in a holistic way. This led to improving sight lines, finding better fixtures, and creating new experiences. For example, the company put an open classroom at the front of the store so that customers can easily drop-in, take classes, and be part of the programming. It also scattered five little pop-up shops called “inspiration hubs” within the store. “Rather than just feature newness and excitement at the front of the store, we’ve pulsed it throughout the space,” says Beesley. Other experiences include floral arrangement areas and educational displays. In each case, Michaels chose to take space from merchandising and give it back to the customer.
As part of their go-to-market strategy, Michaels launched a new brand platform: “Made by you.” It includes a promo video that explains the retailer’s mission to transform “from a warehouse for supplies into a creative champion for makers. The store was reimagined, taking it from a place to shop to a place to create,” the video says. New live classes, how-tos, and inspirational stories all help solidfiy Michaels’ role in makers’ lives “in a way Amazon never could.”
Michael’s store transformation also involved adapting to pandemic conditions. In three weeks, the retailer launched curbside pick-up to keep its stores open and arts and crafts flowing to customers who were making things at home. Two months later, Michaels introduced same-day delivery, another safe and contact-free system. Now, the company is experimenting with shop-and-scan technology and developing self check-out.
Building a Community
To enhance its store concept even further, Michaels is focusing on building community. For example, it launched 10 Michaels Resource Groups (MRGs) that promote diversity and inclusion across the company with slogans like “you belong at this craft table” and “you’re welcome here.” These slogans are then spread and used across marketing, hiring, and other engagement efforts.
The Michaels community is also growing through classes and events. The company offers free “make” breaks every Sunday, “take-and-makes” for kids once per month, and 25 online classes every week. Today, there are over 1,400 online classes to choose from. And it all started with videos that Michael’s Head of Creativity recorded from her living room.
To engage with its online community, Michaels uses the hashtag #makeitwithmichaels on Instagram. This allows the company to promote art made with Michael’s products and even use it for marketing purposes.
So what’s next for Michaels? “There’s a huge opportunity for us to be a resource for the makerpreneur,” says Beesley. So for customers who want to “dream, make, and sell,” the company has two major new developments:
This year, it launched MichaelsPRO, which gives customers discount deals when they buy in bulk. And later this year, the company will launch Michaels Marketplace, an online marketplace and ecosystem that supports makers who want to sell their crafts, learn, find community, and fulfill their maker life.