Tom Kingsbury

After 40 years of operating stores, the discount retailer this Friday finally gets its “flagship” — a three-level, 92,000-square-foot store in lower Manhattan.

NEW YORK — After 40 years of operating stores, Burlington Coat Factory this Friday finally gets its “flagship.”

This story first appeared in the September 19, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The expansion-minded off-price retailer will open a three-level, 92,000-square-foot store at 4 Union Square South, by 14th Street and University Place, in a former Filene’s Basement site. “We’re looking at this store as our overall flagship,” Tom Kingsbury, president and chief executive officer, told WWD in an interview Tuesday.

It fits the flagship criteria for several reasons, according to Kingsbury. First, the Union Square store will be a top-volume location in the 470-unit chain due to the area’s heavy pedestrian traffic, higher percentage of better and best prices and contemporary styles, and greater square footage compared to other Burlington Coat units, which average 80,000 square feet and are more than twice the size of most off-price competitors. Kingsbury declined to project a volume on the flagship.

“We have a very diverse population that shops in our stores overall, but our intention is to make sure every store is a little different and emphasize the treasure hunt,” Kingsbury said. Therefore, Union Square will emphasize categories that cater to Burlington’s “core” female consumer, including sportswear, dresses, coats, accessories and shoes.

Kingsbury also cited the flagship’s enhanced store design. “The interior of the store reflects all of our new stores overall. We’ve integrated new materials into the presentation, gone mostly to noncarpeted selling floors, the lights are brighter, and it’s a much more refreshing look overall.”

Burlington Coat will occupy the fourth, fifth and sixth levels of the building, though Kingsbury said not having the ground floor for shopping won’t be a handicap. “Based on the traffic in that area, this shouldn’t be an issue. There’s dominant signage,” visible from the street as well as in subways nearby. The store’s navigation is easier than others in the chain since it displays new way-finding signs.

The flagship will employ more than 500 area residents and stage a week of activities to promote the opening, including distributing complimentary eco-totes, coffee, savings certificates and charity donations. Burlington’s only other Manhattan store is located on Sixth Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets.

Burlington Coat, which was acquired for $2.06 billion and taken private by Bain Capital Partners in 2006, has recently been performing better. The chain could eclipse the $4 billion mark this year, compared to last year’s $3.85 billion in volume. It’s been capitalizing on the recent fallout in the sector, with Syms, Filene’s Basement and Daffy’s announcing liquidations in 2011 and 2012. Burlington Coat plans to open 20 stores a year over the foreseeable future.

“We feel very good about the off-price model,” Kingsbury said. “There’s a pretty nice flow of product all the time. Availability is good.”

The roots of Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. date back to 1924, when the company launched as a wholesaler of ladies’ coats and junior suits. In 1972, Burlington opened its first outlet in Burlington, N.J. Coats were the primary offering, but over time the concept evolved to offer men’s and women’s suits, sportswear, shoes, accessories, linens and baby merchandise.