Big Lots last week appointed Stephen Haffer as senior vice president and chief customer officer. He will have primary responsibility for customer engagement and messaging touchpoints, including marketing, advertising, brand development and e-commerce, according to a company press release.
Previously Haffer was an executive at American Signature, which owns Value City Furniture and American Signature Home stores. In 25 years there he worked in marketing, e-commerce, IT and business development, culminating in his appointment to chief innovation officer in 2016.
"We look forward to [Haffer's] leadership as we reposition our brand as a new kind of community retailer and execute the multi-year rollout of our Store of the Future initiative," Big Lots Chairman James Chambers said in a statement.
Headquartered in Columbus, OH, Big Lots operates 1,416 stores in 47 states, down from more than 1,500 in 48 states five years ago. Big Lots is bringing on Haffer to lead Big Lots' customer engagement team in large part because of the expertise in furniture he gleaned from a quarter century at American Signature, Chambers said.
"His impressive background as a marketing executive with extensive experience in e-commerce and customer engagement and acquisition, most notably in the furniture industry, will be instrumental as we strategize to grow our business," he said.
Big Lots is playing in a key segment of American retail. "'Discount' isn't just a definition, or a tactic," Lee Peterson, executive vice president of Brand, Strategy & Design at WD Partners, wrote in a guest post for Retail Dive. "We see discount as a strategy serving two very real needs: one, the American consumer's psychic desire for a good deal; and two, the needs of a growing consumer segment of the U.S. population losing economic ground as real wages stagnate, decreasing buying power."
But the retailer has plenty of competition, from the likes of dollar stores (Dollar General, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree); discounters like itself (TJ Maxx, Aldi and Lidl), mass-market retailers like Walmart and Target, and marketplaces like Amazon's and, increasingly, Walmart's too.
Furniture in particular is a segment heating up. Target and Amazon have recently developed new private label furniture assortments and Wayfair is dominating e-commerce as Ikea steps up its own digital game. The mattress industry, meanwhile, is being shaken up as e-commerce upstarts like Casper, Leesa and Tuft & Needle beef up marketing and retail strategies, which includes building out a brick-and-mortar presence.