Meijer is expanding its apparel selection with snow, surf and skate gear from Neff, with a special collection, for "young men" only that includes graphic tees, tanks and shorts available now in some stores and in all stores by fall 2018. Women's styles will be available some time later this year, according to a Meijer spokesperson.
Neff was created by Shaun Neff in Southern California, and has grown in popularity among the surf and skate crowds. The deal with Meijer allows the brand to expand into the Midwest, according to a Meijer press release. Last year Meijer launched its first private-label apparel brand, Edgar + Ash, also for young men that includes jackets, hoodies, flannel shirts, tees, joggers and shorts.
Meijer, the Michigan-based retailer said last month it was testing small format locations in urban areas to cater to younger shoppers there.
It's not clear why Meijer is centering its apparel updates on young men, but the 84-year-old privately-owned, family-operated chain is clearly trying to expand beyond its big-box roots. The company now runs 235 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
The Neff collection is exciting for Meijer "because the brand celebrates fun and individuality," Shawn Colley, divisional merchandising manager of men's apparel and team sports for Meijer, said in a statement. "The brand offers many styles and looks that will enable them to be relevant and authentic. We are extremely pleased with the initial success of the brand."
The new program is also "an amazing opportunity for Neff," according to John Lee, vice president of marketing for Neff. "We created a collection for Meijer that allows us to deliver our 'forever fun' anthem as a point of difference to the regions that Meijer penetrates," he said in a statement.
The new apparel offering and the company’s smaller test stores are squarely aimed at the younger, more urban consumers who aren’t leaving city living behind as quickly or as readily as previous generations, even after they've bought a home or started families. It's a good, if unsurprising, move also being pursued by Target. But the company will need more than six stores to know the format’s impact, according to retail analyst Nick Egelanian, president of retail development consultants SiteWorks International. He called the urban market opportunity, nationwide, "largely untapped."
"As suburban store growth opportunities continue to decline, particularly in lower-growth Midwest markets, I believe that Meijer is being very astute in targeting a largely unserved segment of the larger U.S. retail market," he told Retail Dive in an email. "[But] I would not look for these stores to move the needle for overall company momentum much, unless the pace of development is substantially increased."