Byline: Mark Tosh

NEW YORK — In its first move west of the Mississippi, Jacobson Stores Inc. opened a 120,000-square-foot store near Kansas City on Thursday that is expected to become one of the company’s better-performing units.
While Jacobson’s would not disclose a volume projection, officials said the store should exceed the company’s average-store volume of $16 million annually.
“We expect it to be one of the top stores in the company,” said Mark Fillion, general manager of the store. “It’s a growing area and we’re just thrilled to be here.”
The two-level store is the anchor for the new 400,000-square-foot Town Center Plaza in the suburb of Leawood, Kan. Other stores in the center, including Ann Taylor and Pottery Barn, are opening this spring.
Fillion said Jacobson’s high expectations are based on the store’s location in an upscale community and a strong local economy. Some 200 of the Fortune 500 companies are represented in the market.
Almost 2,000 people attended a benefit at the store Wednesday night for a local children’s hospital and Jacobson’s officials estimate that 25 percent of the store’s marketing budget will be used to support community events and charities.
“We’ve been looking at the Kansas City market for a long time,” Fillion said in a telephone interview from the store this week. “It certainly is a true Midwest market, with a customer that we understand.”
Jacobson’s, based in Jackson, Mich., operates 27 stores, including 12 in Michigan and 10 in Florida. In November, an 80,000-square-foot unit opens in Boca Raton, Fla.
Officials acknowledge that the specialty chain’s Florida units have been performing better than its stores in the Midwest, where business has been soft. For the nine months ended Oct. 28, Jacobson’s reported a loss of $7.4 million on sales of $281.2 million.
The company recently completed a $65 million financing package, including a revolving credit line of $45 million and a term loan of $20 million. This represents a $10 million increase in the revolving credit line.
In Kansas City, Jacobson’s competitors include Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard’s, Mercantile Stores’ Jones division and Kansas City-based Hall’s.
Fillion said Jacobson’s edge is its wide-open layout, emphasis on customer service and consistent pricing.
“Our stores are spacious, and you don’t have to turn sideways to get through a department,” he noted.
Special services include lingerie fit specialists for women who have had mastectomies, corporate seminars on careerwear, ordering by fax and complimentary gift-wrapping. The store also has 184 customer chairs, including many large, plush armchairs.
Women’s apparel and a styling salon fill the 60,000-square-foot second floor. There are special areas for bridge sportswear, designer collections, petites, dresses, bridal and furs. Among the key lines are St. John, Escada, Escada Sport, Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Rena Lange and Moschino Cheap & Chic.
About 15,000 square feet on the main floor is devoted to men’s wear and furnishings, with the balance going to accessories, cosmetics, fine jewelry, footwear, home fashions, children’s wear and an espresso bar.
In designing the store, Fillion said Jacobson’s set off individual departments by using different floor and ceiling treatments. For example, to walk from collection sportswear to petites a shopper might move from a marble floor to a carpeted surface, he said.
To promote the opening, Jacobson’s has scheduled fashion shows, gift-with-purchase promotions, personal appearances and prize drawings. Fillion said no special pricing promotions are planned.
“We’re not promotional in that sense,” he said. “We present our merchandise at a fair price every single day, and we don’t do yo-yo pricing.”
Fillion said Jacobson’s does not expect to open additional stores in the Kansas City market but “someday” may consider locations east of Kansas City and closer to St. Louis.
“By design, we grow at a very slow pace,” he said. “We really research the markets, and we’re not in a hurry to have 100 stores.”

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