Small-Town Charmer: Boscov’s Bucks Trend Of Regional Meltdown

WYOMISSING, Pa. — For Boscov’s, thinking out of the box means putting more into it. Like homemade fudge at $4 a pound, $14 neck...

Key apparel brands include Liz Claiborne, Emma James, Caribbean Joe, Norton McNaughton, Tommy Hilfiger, Rafaella, Nautica and Polo. Casual is the most developed women’s category, though the biggest growth has been in updated moderate, while Boscov’s "has opportunities in career," Crystal said. The average sales slip is typically $50 for two items, with the merchandise presentations primarily moderate to upper moderate. About 80 percent of the merchandise selection is the same from door to door; with the remaining 20 percent tailored to individual markets.

In the home category, particularly soft goods, cookware, small appliances and domestics, Boscov’s really tries to out-merchandise competitors with deeper inventories. For example, many department stores go deep in towels and bedding, but Boscov’s goes deeper by presenting vignettes, with four-way towel fixtures displaying matching shower curtains and bath accessories. "Our customers pay extra money for this, but it’s extra business for us, regular priced and very profitable," said John Young, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for domestics.

He also said that Boscov’s considers itself a destination for curtains and drapes, selling about $25 million in the category. Penney’s sells more curtains and drapes than any other department store but, according to Young, "We do more volume per store than Penney’s."

Two to three days a week, buying teams are in the markets, where Boscov’s has generally sustained good relations with suppliers, not the least of which stems from a chargeback policy that’s less rigid than national department store operations. "Boscov’s is a different animal," said David N. Kaliski, president of Royale Linens Inc. "It’s a regional that appears to be doing well. Over the years, they were unique in the way they handled vendor resources. They used to give prizes to vendors, trips to Antigua. They don’t do it as much anymore, but they are relatively easy to deal with. They’ve made us feel like family."

"There’s a sense of originality in the merchandise, like the original R.H. Macy & Co.," observed Frank Guzzo, a sales rep from Thermos.

On the markdown front, Boscov’s can be aggressive, but not like Macy’s. When Kohl’s entered Boscov’s trading area five years ago, Boscov’s took two busloads of staff to a Kohl’s in Erie, Pa., and spent hours in the store. "We were very impressed by their domestics," Lakin said. "So we repriced our home store to a promotional stance," as opposed to the usual "best value" everyday low price stance. "As a regional, we were able to react."
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