NILES, Ohio – Boscov’s opens only one store per year in order to give it the attention it deserves. This year, that store will be in Eastwood Mall in Niles.
“We open stores very differently,” said Jim Boscov, chairman and CEO of the department store chain.
Boscov was at Eastwood Event Centre June 2, where he spoke to about 400 representatives from area charities. He told them how to take part in Charity Day, a fundraising opportunity tied to the Oct. 7-9 grand opening of the store.
Charity Day is an example of the Boscov’s approach to opening a store. The Reading, Pa.-based retailer is privately owned, which accounts for its community-based mindset when entering a market.
“I don’t have to think about what the stock market thinks,” Boscov said. “I can please the customer and make long-term investments for the good of the business. The stock market would want me to open 10 stores a year.“
Boscov’s has opened one store per year for the past decade, he pointed out. “It seems to be working well.”
The Eastwood Mall store will hire 250 full- and part-time employees, and will set up an interviewing center inside the mall beginning Aug. 3.
Once the staff is in place, a group of executives, buyers, store managers and employees from other locations will descend on the Eastwood store to train the new hires for two months, starting a month before the store opens.
“You don’t teach the company culture by giving workers a handbook and saying, ‘Here, read this,’ ” Boscov said. “We teach by working side by side. It gets the store off to the right start. You get the culture set.”
The Niles Boscov’s will be the chain’s 50th and its second in Ohio. The other store is at Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville. The closest stores in Pennsylvania are in Erie, Butler and Monaca.
Will the chain open a second location in the Youngstown area, possibly Boardman? Boscov said it’s too soon to say.
“We take it one step at a time,” he said. “We add one store a year and work hard to make sure it’s a success and then we’ll make that evaluation. [Youngstown] is a big market and the potential is there.”
Entering the Youngstown market was “a natural” for the chain, Boscov said.
“You look at the density of population and the demographics, which are very much in keeping with what we believe will make for a successful store,” he said.
The chain also found the Eastwood Mall and its surrounding complex of stores, theaters, hotels, restaurants and even a baseball stadium to be an enticement.
“This is vibrant,” Boscov said of the complex. “What they’ve done – and I am seeing others mimic it – is bring all kinds of things in to add vitality and activity. [Mall owner-operator The Cafaro Co.] is on the cutting edge, and they’ve been exceptional to work with.”
Joe Bell, a spokesman for Cafaro, said the Niles-based company has a special interest in the Eastwood Complex.
“This is a family-owned operation and this is their hometown. They want to make sure that it always has the best selection of stores and services,” he said.
“We have Boscov’s stores in a couple of our malls,” Bell said. “It’s a pleasure working with them because they really know retailing and they take a very different approach. They open a store in a very methodical and caring way, and they always make a big deal out of it.”
The Eastwood store will occupy the former Sears location, plus some additional space. Preparing the space is a multimillion dollar project, according to Bell. At 180,000 square feet, the Niles Boscov’s will be the biggest store to ever open at Eastwood Mall, but it’s just average-sized for the chain.
The large floor space is necessary, Boscov said.
“You need that much to be a full-service department store,” he said. “We have a candy department with a counter where you can pick an assortment. We have optical and hearing aid centers, and a toy department. Those are things that other stores have given up on. When you do that, you give people a reason to go someplace else.”
Boscov said his stores sell quality hearing aids, with the help of a licensed audiologist, at less than half the typical price.
Another difference is the volume of merchandise in each store; the aisles are fairly bursting with items. It’s a signature of the chain.
“We have a lot of inventory,” Boscov said. “Instead of having a couple of coffeemakers on the shelves, we’ll have a dozen to choose from.”
The stores have other qualities that the shopper will immediately notice, he continued.
“We’re light and bright and clean,” Boscov said. “We’re attractively decorated but we have a ton of merchandise on display and a lot of salespeople.”
Boscov’s grand opening celebration will begin with Charity Day on Oct. 7, continue with Family Day on Oct. 8, and culminate with a ribbon-cutting on Oct. 9.
For Charity Day, the store will provide charities with shopping passes that they can sell for $5 and keep all of the proceeds. Pass-holders will be the only ones permitted to enter the store Oct. 7, and can enjoy entertainment, refreshments and first pick of the grand opening special deals.
Charities can get information by emailing [email protected].
Pictured: Jim Boscov is the chairman and CEO of Boscov’s, the nation’s largest family-owned department store.