The TJX transformation of STP is (sadly) complete. The store where I live now looks exactly like any old TJMaxx - rows and rows of clothes crammed so tightly together it's difficult to browse, with a few end cap style eye catchers. The prices are up, the service is down and the selection is awful. I've stopped shopping there except for the occasional fishing item, where it's clear the buyers have no real idea what they're doing. Case in point: I live in the Rocky Mountains, but I visit northeast Florida several times a year where I like to surf fish. Last fall I checked the fishing supplies and to my surprise there were four high quality sand spikes used as rod holders for surf fishing. I scooped them up at the very reasonable price of $12 each. Aside from the odd surprise like that there's virtually nothing in the store that resembles the old STP.
“Death of an icon - sigh”
I'm not certain what TJX had in mind when they bought STP, but I'd sure like to know. I suppose it will eventually come out somewhere in a blog post, op ed or annual report. We'll see. In any case, whether it was to get access to a customer demographic that just doesn't see the point in TJMAXX (yeah, I've been in a couple of their stores. It's chaos.) or they thought they could turn loyal STP catalog (website) customers into store walkers - they got it wrong.
TJX doesn't do online. That's part of their business model - ignore the web. So they thought "hey, let's buy STP, kill the web business, and open a bunch of stores nationwide to lure those former loyal customers in". Genius. Pure genius.
I initially thought they bought STP to get access to the supply channels that STP had built up over the years for top name brand close outs. If that's true, then why do those brands no longer show up in the stores? It's a mystery to me.
I have a friend who works at the local STP store where I live and the most common question she gets is "What happened to the store?". All the stuff we used to shop for at STP, like (fill in the blank for your favorite outdoor activity) is gone. There used to be a whole wall of camping supplies - now it's an end cap. Same for fishing, hunting, you name it. Now it's seasonal clothes. And more clothes. With brands I've never heard of.
I don't mind change - if it's for the better. But, after two and half years of steady decline I'm losing heart. Case in point: I'm a fly fisherman. There used to be (literally) hundreds of boxes of flies at great prices in the store that took up a large section of the fishing isle. Three years ago I could have broken the bank buying decent quality files at great prices (nearly did!). Fast forward to this year and the flies have been replace with, what?, saltwater lures. Huh? I live in the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps they're saving all the files for the stores they plan to open in Florida?
I guess the good news is that the business model Keith Richardson envisioned and worked so hard to build a company around is now available for re-creation as a replacement for the old STP. Any takers?
Maybe Mr. Richardson will take the $200M he got for STP and start over? Hopefully, he didn't sign a non-compete...