Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — In its biggest wave of openings ever, Ames Department Stores launched 56 units last week, representing over one-third of the volume picked up through its Hills Department Stores acquisition earlier this year, and Caldor acquisitions of the past year.
Through the Hills acquisition, and various Caldor store purchases, Ames will grow to $4 billion in volume by the end of the year, from $2.5 billion last year. Caldor was liquidated in the first quarter of this year and Ames purchased Hills last January.
“What amazes us it that we’ve been able to maintain our year-to-date comps — 8.6 percent — at our core stores even through the conversion of the Hills and Caldor units,” Joseph Ettore, president and chief executive officer of Ames, said.
Of the 56 stores, 47 are former Hills, and nine are former Caldor sites. The latest additions to the Ames chain are in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Ettore said that absorbing big chunks of former competitors has not been a factor in dissuading competitors from any of the areas where Ames operates, nor was it designed to. “Wal-Mart is everywhere,” he said.
However, he did say that Ames, a regional discounter in 19 states, has been effective competing against Wal-Mart and other national discounters through a “smaller, more convenient format.” Ames operates stores that average 60,000 square feet, and has a program of offering price breaks to senior citizens, whereas other chains, including Wal-Mart, have everyday low pricing policies. Wal-Mart and other national retailers generally operate stores that are two to three times larger than those operated by Ames.
This year, Ames grew like never before, opening 161 stores and bringing its total store count to 455. In previous mass openings this year, Ames opened 51 stores in April, and 54 in July. Two more stores will open in October.