Not niche after all?

Miniso-shopfrontHaving previously proclaimed the dollar and variety store channel in Australia to be niche at best in a previous article published last month, in an example of Baader-Meinhof phenomenon,* I subsequently noted the opening of two different variety stores in my local shopping centres.

One was Priceland, which opened a few months ago in Top Ryde City, and the other was Miniso in Rhodes Waterside (and soon to open Top Ryde City).

For competitive context, Rhodes has Target and a Hot Dollar, where Top Ryde City has not only Big W and Kmart but also a TK Maxx and The Reject Shop, and a Best & Less sitting right next to Priceland. Both Priceland and Miniso are variety stores rather than dollar stores, as they aren’t fixed price.

But one has a major point of difference versus the other.

Priceland

Very little information on Priceland is available online and it doesn’t appear to have a website.

When you Google the company, you’re directed to their store on the Top Ryde City website. There appears to be another store in Eastland in Melbourne. It doesn’t seem to be linked to Priceland UK as the categories and products stocked differ. Executionally, it’s like other independent variety stores. Essentially a lite Reject Shop.

Categories ranged include the usual homeware, hardware, stationery, storage, costume, party, arts & crafts, souvenirs, picture frames and gift boxes. Although its floorspace was decent and its aisles had category headers, making it easier to navigate than some similar independent variety stores, it’s still a classic variety store.

Miniso

Miniso was founded in 2013 by a Japanese designer and a Chinese entrepreneur and is headquartered in Guangzhou, China. It numbers 1800+ stores globally, only around 800 of which are in China.

It operates across markets including North and South America, Asia, Europe and Africa, as well as 21 stores in Australia at current count. With branding using Japanese katakana (alphabet) characters and colours resembling those of Uniqlo, the range carried is distinguished by what I dub ‘Japanese kitsch’. Not Hello Kitty precisely, but collections of anime style ‘critter merchandise’ under labels including Pink Panther, Husky, Shiba Inu, Mini Poni and We Bare Bears, pricing for all of which ranges from $3.99 to $34.99 depending on the item.

Categories ranged include food and beverage (predominantly confectionery, tea, cold drinks), fashion accessories, health & beauty, electronics accessories, ‘creative homewares’, stationery & gift, toys, seasonal, textiles (mostly gloves, socks, underwear) and something called the ‘life department’ which appears to mostly consist of storage containers, vacuum bottles and mugs, haberdashery and other sundries. It doesn’t carry costume or party goods.

By logging in on the Miniso website, while not being able to buy online you can check item availability per store as well as earn points and redeem coupons.

Competition and positioning

Global asset management company AllianceBernstein compares Miniso to Daiso, Muji and Uniqlo, hailing its market strategy a success by “filling a price point niche left unaddressed by the Japanese formats it imitates”.

That is to say, cheaper. Miniso and its ilk, with their Japanese kitsch styled ranges, have a point of difference versus the mass merchants.

While costume and party could be a point of difference for Priceland, Top Ryde City has not only a Kmart with a party department, but a dedicated party store called Everything Party. So even the party space presents stiff competition.

One of the many challenges for the independent variety stores is they don’t have the marketing and PR muscle of the mass merchants. Barely a week goes by without another Kmart home ‘hack’ on news.com.au.

Think I know where I’d be placing my bets. *Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, or frequency illusion: when one happens upon some obscure piece of information – often an unfamiliar word or name – and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly.

Norrelle Goldring has 20 years’ experience in retail, category, channel and customer strategy, marketing and research, working in and with global retailers, manufacturers and research houses.

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