NILES, Ohio – Although it’s been open less than one year, the Boscov’s department store inside Eastwood Mall in Niles is already proving to be a good investment for the Reading, Pennsylvania-based company.
“The opening of the store was the best that the company has seen in the past few years,” says Leann Rich, community relations manager for Eastwood Mall Boscov’s.
The store opened the first week of October. By the end of the month, it recorded $4.8 million in sales. It made more than $10 million in sales by the end of the year.
Located where the former Sears department store was, the 180,000-square-foot space is the largest in the mall complex and it was immediately embraced by the community, Rich says. And while its headquarters may be based elsewhere, its emphasis is local, she says.
“The response from the community has been amazing. The amount of customers that have come in and the things they’re saying, it’s all hugely positive.”
And Boscov’s, Rich says, reciprocates by supporting the community, through employment, partnering with local groups and supporting local nonprofits.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for nonprofits to make money, fundraise through the store, and we have the auditorium that they can use for free,” Rich says.
On Oct. 19, Boscov’s will hold the companywide Friends Helping Friends event, which brings in more business for the company than Black Friday, according to Rich.
The event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., is open to anyone who purchases a $5 shopping pass.
“The nonprofits sell the shopping pass. They keep 100% of what they sell and then the customer gets a 25% discount when they come in that day,” Rich says.
About 55 organizations are already selling the passes to their supporters. More will be on hand the day of the event to sell passes. The passes are available to any 501c nonprofit.
“It’s an easy way to make a couple thousand dollars,” Rich says.
Last year, nonprofits sold 6,500 tickets leading up to opening day and 2,200 more the day of the event, raising $43,500.
The most tickets sold were for the St. Vincent DePaul Society with St. Joe’s at the Mall fitness center coming in second.
Shirley Lisk, Eastwood business manager at St. Joe’s at the Mall, said the organization raised $1,865 with presales and another $1,000 the day of the event.
“It was another big bonus because we didn’t even expect that,” she says. “It became a great connection with Leann and Mr. Boscov and everybody there.”
Lisk says St. Joe’s at the Mall moved to accommodate the arrival of Boscov’s, relocating from a 6,700-square-foot space included in Boscov’s current footprint, to a larger, 8,000-square-foot space next to JC Penney.
St. Joe’s used the money raised to buy new security cameras for the center, which has exercise equipment, provides health screenings and testing and hosts wellness events.
“They’re very community oriented, just like we are, and to me that’s a win-win situation having us both in the mall,” Lisk says.
Boscov’s also has an auditorium that seats 50 to 70 people and is free for community groups and nonprofits. Rich adds that the store is always happy to donate materials for auctions and basket raffles that nonprofits hold to raise funds.
Boscov’s was started in 1918 by Solomon Boscov, a Russian immigrant who supported himself selling wares and performing chores.
The company has 49 stores throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. The Eastwood Mall store is one of only two in Ohio, which are the westernmost locations. Rich says it’s made Boscov’s a regional draw.
“People are definitely traveling. They’re coming from the west, coming from Akron. The more people that are coming here, it’s helping all the other mall tenants too, I think,” she says.
The store employs 105, down from about 200 when it first opened. The decrease results mainly from summer being a slow time for retail.
“Once the busy season comes in, we’ll probably ramp up a little bit,” she says.
Since opening, the store has been tweaking its offerings to appeal to the Mahoning Valley market, which was quick to embrace some departments but slow to embrace others.
“Certain departments took off really great. The candy and housewares were in the top five, top 10 in the company consistently,” Rich says.
Yet other departments, such as jewelry and clothing were slow to catch on.
“We realized that people are loyal to where they buy their clothes and they had to sort of discover Boscov’s and get into it,” Rich says.
As for inventory, Rich says Boscov’s smaller size, relative to the big national chains, gives it an advantage and that the shelves are stocked.
Rich says the store is preparing for business to pick up when back-to-school shopping begins and the holiday season starts approaching. She hopes consumers in the region will choose to support Boscov’s and its efforts in the community then and in the future.
“It’s still a family business and they take care of their employees,” she says. “They still treat everyone like they’re part of the family business.”
Pictured: Leann Rich is the community relations manager for the department store.