Boscov’s sees growth while others toil

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — While retailers like Macy’s are closing stores as they continue to grapple with shifting consumer preferences, one department store, Reading, Pa.-based Boscov’s, is growing.

Its CEO and chairman Jim Boscov, who last week announced the company’s 49th store would open this year at the Eastwood Mall, chalks the expansion up to being family-owned, personality, pricing and positive experiences for shoppers.

The store in Niles will occupy more than 180,000-square-feet of the mall’s west concourse, including the former Sears store and others that will be relocated in other parts of the massive building.

It’s Boscov’s third time partnering with the Cafaro Co., which owns and operates the mall and two others — Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville and Mill Creek Mall in Erie, Pa. — that have a Boscov’s store.

“Something that Anthony Cafaro (Cafaro Co. co-president) mentioned in his talk the other day I thought was important was that this is two family businesses working together. There’s no government money or subsidies or tax relief or any of that stuff involved. It’s just two enterprising, private companies going about doing their business,” Boscov said.

Demolition inside the former Sears and the area surrounding it is underway in Niles. Construction of the new store is set to begin in the next couple of weeks, Boscov said.

“We totally take it down to steel and concrete and create a whole new Boscov’s. It’s a long process,” he said.

Boscov said several factors go into the decision of where to locate a new store, including availability, the market and demographics.

“In Niles, for example, there are a lot of people who currently are driving to Erie (Pennsylvania) or to Ohio Valley or to Monaca (Pennsylvania) to shop at a Boscov’s,” he said.

The Boscov’s in St. Clairsville opened in 2013 in what was once JCPenney, an original anchor at Ohio Valley Mall before it moved to The Highlands in Triadelphia, W.Va.

Meanwhile, several other large retailers that once called the Belmont County mall home, including Sears, Kmart, Elder-Beerman, Pat Catans and Kaufmann’s have closed in recent years. And Macy’s just announced its store there will close in March.

Boscov said his company, including its St. Clairsville location, is still going strong.

“Part of our success is that when you come to Boscov’s, you can get virtually everything,” Boscov said.

The store sells clothing and shoes for men, women and children, and it also has a candy department, beauty and cosmetic shop, housewares, jewelry and more. Boscov’s also offers free gift wrapping and a year-round military discount.

“I think part of it is that we’re a smaller company, that we can have a personality, personal attention to customers at individual stores. We have a broad range of departments, we have everything. Within each department, we have a deep assortment,” he said.

Boscov used coffee makers as an example of what sets the store apart from others. It’s the same example he used in a video introducing the public to the store in Niles.

“If you go into other stores, you may find a choice of five or six (coffee makers). If you go to Boscov’s you see 16, 17, 18, 19 different ones to choose from. Our pricing is better than anyone …”

“We also have a lot of people on the floor,” he said. “A lot of stores have decided that the way to save money is to eliminate salespeople, and I think that’s a mistake. You want knowledgeable, friendly people that are there to help.”

Boscov also credits the success of the store to being a privately owned company.

“We can get involved in communities, we can have a personality, we can make fun of ourselves at times. We can be your neighborhood store. It’s much harder for a national chain to do that,” he said.

Newspaper advertising also plays a key role in the success of his business, Boscov said.

“Print media has always been a good way of getting the message across,” he said. “Anybody who lives in our community knows that we really use a lot of print media. Nowadays, it’s inserts that are being distributed in the paper. We think that you can tell a much more compelling story through print.”


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