The Not-So-Little Six

The Big Three may have a majority of the mass market in their pockets, but other chains are also important regional players.

Venture Stores Inc., O'Fallon, Mo.

1993 sales: $1.9 billion. Net earnings: $41.4 million.

Venture has identified four strategies for improving its sales and profits: expansion, responding to current fashion trends, improving customer service and upgrading technology to keep merchandise in stock.

The company operates 104 stores in the Midwest. In 1993, it expanded into Texas with six stores in Houston and five in Dallas-Fort Worth. Texas is the company's main focus of expansion. The company aims for 50 stores in Texas by 1997. In all, 50 new stores are planned over the next five years.

Bradlees Inc., Braintree, Mass.

1993 sales: $1.8 billion. Net earnings: $6.7 million.

Bradlees operates 126 department stores in the Northeast, and has been expanding into urban areas. It opened its first store in the New York City area -- in Yonkers -- last year, and it has plans to open in Manhattan, at Union Square, on Nov. 6, and in Brooklyn in spring 1995. This year, 11 new stores are on tap.

The company also has been remodeling stores and improving fashion assortments to reflect current trends.

ShopKo Stores Inc., Green Bay, Wis.

1993 sales: $1.7 billion. Net earnings: $32.1 million.

ShopKo operates 117 stores in the Upper Midwest, Mountain states and Pacific Northwest. In 1991, the company began a remodeling and remerchandising program, dubbed Vision 2000. Its goal is to emphasize value as well as fashion and quality in merchandise offerings, in an updated shopping environment. It has also upgraded its warehouse and distribution facilities.

Over the last 18 months, ShopKo has narrowed its vendor structure by about 25 percent, and cut its private label by 40 to 50 percent.


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