How Boscov’s Thrives When Other Retailers Struggle. Tour the New Boscov’s in Connecticut (A Dad’s Perspective)
Disclosure: I was invited to a bloggers event at the Post Mall in Milford CT. The event was for the opening of a new Boscov’s in the mall. The opinions and thoughts are mine and not influenced by anyone.
On Saturday, October 6th, 2018 a new Boscov’s celebrates their opening in Milford CT with a ribbon cutting & grand opening celebration.
On Friday I got to meet Jim Boscov (CEO of Boscov’s) along with some of the other executives and employees of Boscov’s and the Post Mall in Milford Connecticut.
We also toured the new Boscov’s and learned how they can open new stores when it seems other retailers are struggling to stay open.
As I was preparing to write this I read that Mattress Firm is preparing to close 700 stores. We all know of the struggles of Sears, Kmart and Toys R Us. It seems like retailers not named Walmart or Target are struggling.
If you watch or read the news you have probably also heard that malls are struggling, and some are. We will get to that later.
Why Did I Choose This Event?
I was the only dad blogger in attendance. There was only one other male attending. He was there for a fashion blog. I chose to do this because I think it’s important to understand that men do shop. It’s important to get a dad’s perspective on what is perceived as a women’s world.
Men prefer to get in and out when they shop. We almost always know what we want, where to get it, and the fastest way to accomplish this.
We don’t want to spend hours browsing the racks because we have other things to do, like take naps, play with the kids and procrastinate. These things are very important.
There were approximately 20 women in attendance. I presume most but not all are moms. In the blog world, we get the moms perspective far more often than we do the dads.
I chose to do this knowing that I would be one of maybe a few men there. I chose to do this understanding that this is usually a female dominated area. I chose to do this to give a dad’s perspective.
How Is Boscov’s Able to Open New Stores?
Boscov’s is the largest family-owned department store chain in the United States. They have been operating for over one hundred years.
With the addition of the Milford store they now have 47 stores in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio, and Connecticut.
They provide a wide array of merchandise but do this with very competitive pricing and excellent customer service.
Boscov’s also understands there are some areas it’s best not to try to compete in some areas like consumer electronics and sports equipment.
Here’s Where Boscov’s Differs from the Pack
They Only Open One New Store Per Year
Boscov’s is very intentional with their growth plan, choosing to only open one store per year.
Of course, they research and review the demographics of any potential location to see if it’s a viable location.
By opening only one new store per year they can focus on building and becoming a part of the community. This sets them apart from competitors because they’re not oversaturating the area but instead taking the time to get to know the community and understanding the location.
Boscov’s Buyers are Good at What They Do
The buyers at Boscov’s know what they’re doing. They know how to get the best deals on merchandise that the community wants. They have the research and the contacts to be able to provide the best deals possible.
Boscov’s prides themselves on the relationships they have built with vendors. These relationships help them get great deals on purchases that they are ready to pass on to their customers.
We met one of the buyers who has been with Boscov’s for over 30 years and has been the buyer for three different departments. She knew exactly what would sell in Milford Connecticut and how to get the best deal possible on it.
30 years of experience will do that.
Boscov’s Would Rather Focus on Volume Than Profit Margin
Jim Boscov told us that Boscov’s would rather focus on giving its customers better pricing because they will buy more and more often from Boscov’s. This means lower profit margins, but it also means customers are buying more from Boscov’s.
It seems to be working in everyone’s favor.
They say that a company’s culture starts at the top. Jim Boscov spent time telling us about the company including stories of how they helped people out during the great depression by giving them credit to purchase from Boscov’s when there was no guarantee that they would ever pay them back.
Everyone paid them back!
As we walked around other employees greeted us, not to make commissions but just to say hi. We toured with someone from marketing who also greeted customers in the store as she walked through.
Jim was walking around talking to customers as we toured the store. You could tell this was not a show but something that was practiced often.
Boscov’s hired 300 people at the new store. They brought in another 150 people from other stores to train the 300 new employees. Not for a few days but for 3 weeks prior to opening.
I have never worked retail, but I have heard horror stories about training. I also have a training background. Three weeks of training in retail is impressive.
As you can see they do things a little differently.
Me being me did a little research outside of the tour. Here’s something that was not shared with us during the event.
Jim Boscov, the CEO and obviously part of the Boscov family, has worked other positions for Boscov’s including Assistant Store Manager, Store Manager, Buyer and numerous other positions over a 40-year career at Boscov’s.
I’d say It’s safe to say he worked his way up. You can rest assured he knows the business inside and out.
The New Boscov’s in Milford Connecticut.
OK, enough about the company. Let’s talk about the new store….from a Dad’s perspective.
They have women’s clothes, makeup and so on. I know that dads probably don’t care much about that unless you need a gift.
Let’s talk about what we want!
First, there is a nice assortment of children’s clothes. I don’t shop for the kid’s clothes often but when I do I prefer it be as painless as possible.
Boscov’s does just that. There are clothes for children from infant to young adults (teens). There are clothes for just about any reason.
It’s easy to figure out where the clothes you’re looking for are.
And there are some great deals to be had on children’s clothes because their buyers know what they’re doing.
They do have a small department with toys from Melissa and Doug.
Did You Say Fudge?
I had no idea…really, none. Boscov’s has a candy bar. They also make their own fudge.
I was fortunate enough to not only be able to try some, but I also received a box to take home.
I tried pumpkin flavored fudge. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t judge me.
It was amazing.
I have a problem though. I love chocolate and peanut butter together. I took home a box of chocolate & peanut butter fudge. Also, unbelievable.
My wife swiped it the next morning and I have not seen it since.
They have won awards for their fudge. If you don’t go to Boscov’s for any other reason, then go for the fudge.
Yes, they have men’s clothes. In the Milford store, it’s a little more than half of the first floor. They have casual and suits, ties, and socks (I will get back to the socks in a few sentences).
They have outerwear and underwear.
I know what you’re thinking, so does Walmart and Target.
I loathe Walmart for so many reasons. Target is cool but sometimes a little pricey.
Boscov’s gets it. They’re not trying to be either store. They are family owned and believe that their whole team is part of the Boscov’s family.
That means they do treat their employees right (Walmart does not) and are not overpriced (Target is on some things).
OK, now…I am a short and t-shirt kind of guy who can dress up, and does like to dress up, sometimes.
What I don’t like is the hassle of buying a suit and then having it altered to meet my size.
Boscov’s simplifies the suit buying process.
They have a large selection of suits and can take care of everything in the store. They also have all the accessories you might need including ties, socks, and shoes.
I saw a large selection of ties but didn’t have a lot of time to go through them as I toured the store. There was a large color and style selection easily visible as we walked around.
For you bow tie fans they have those too. I am personally not a fan of bow ties.
You’re reading this so there’s a good chance you’ve read my Sprezzabox blog post where I talk about my sock addiction. I have several resources to get my sock fix but here’s something I did not know.
Boscov’s has a wide selection of $.99 socks. I don’t know if this is something they have in other stores, but the Milford store does.
I live 5 minutes from the Meriden Connecticut store, so I will report back to you on the availability there.
I can say with confidence that dads will have no problem filling their clothing needs here. Sock addicts go check it out.
As Seen on TV
You know those commercials you see late at night with the cool air fryer or other gadgets? Well. Boscov’s has a large As Seen on TV section where they carry all those items.
It’s really cool for us dads because there are things we would like in this section. I saw a George Foreman grill that I will be getting. They have lots of other household gadgets that intrigue me as well.
Free Gift Wrapping
I am not a fan of wrapping gifts. I have become an expert at buying gift bags with tissue paper. To make matters worse my wife also does not like wrapping gifts.
Christmas Eve is painful for us. We procrastinate every year and complain all night about wrapping the gifts.
Boscov’s has free gift wrapping. See you soon gift wrappers.
Jim Boscov started talking about curtains and drapes but I suddenly went deaf. I cannot explain it.
I Am Sold
As we were touring the store I had a short conversation with Jim Boscov. During the conversation, it came up that I live 5 minutes from the Meriden store.
He asked me what they can do better. I didn’t have an answer for him. My wife does most of the shopping. I was tempted to call her, but I knew she was with clients.
He said you can be honest with me. The only thing I could think of is I would like to see more children’s clothing though Milford seems to have quite a bit.
He genuinely cares what his customers think. I have never spoken to the CEO of a retail chain before, but I know that most CEOs are not open to talking to customers like this.
I saw him later talking to another customer at the candy bar. I can tell he really cares what customers have to say.
I mentioned earlier in this blog that a company’s culture starts at the top. It’s evident to me that the biggest reason that Boscov’s continues to grow at a time when other retail chains close doors and trim the fat is the customer first culture that starts at the top.
The (Connecticut) Post Mall
We also had the opportunity to meet some of the team at the Post (Formerly the Connecticut Post Mall).
The Post’s marketing and management have the mall undergoing a transformation not only physically but philosophically.
The team at the Post understands that how people shop has changed.
Yes, Amazon plays a big part in this but both Boscov’s and the Post understand that people still want to be able to shop and take home items the same day.
The Post also understands that consumers want a centralized place to do things. The Post is becoming that place.
Shopping, dining, and entertainment are already available at the Post but they will continue to evolve to meet today’s consumer demand.
Coming soon is Muse Paintbar, Kidz Klub and Dave & Busters (conveniently they will be next to each other).
Dave & Busters is set to open in November so look for that grand opening soon.
There’s already a movie theater and plenty of places to eat. The movie theater features some of the most comfortable seating in the state.
They also have lots of events. During the grand opening celebration week of Boscov’s, Debby Boone will be performing a couple of times per day.
I was not aware that the Post is the largest mall in Connecticut in square space. I do know it is a very large mall with lots to do already.
Boscov’s and the Post are proving that traditional brick and mortar can survive with a little creativity and understanding what the consumer wants.
If you’re not innovating, you’re dying.