KMART JOINS DISCOUNTER INVASION OF NEW YORK
Byline: Mark Tosh
NEW YORK — Joining the wave of discounters heading into the New York region, Kmart Corp. opened its first store in the Bronx on Monday and said it was considering two or three more units in the city within 12 months.
One could be in Manhattan, said Kmart officials.
Kmart is not the only retailer on the prowl for urban sites. Moderate-price chains such as Sears Roebuck & Co. and J.C. Penney Co., and discounters such as Bradlees Inc., are exploring real estate opportunities. Bradlees opened a 143,000-square-foot store at Union Square in Manhattan Nov. 6, the second-largest in the chain, after the 147,000-square foot Yonkers, N.Y., store, and potentially its biggest volume generator.
Kmart’s unit in Fresh Meadows, Queens, has proven a hit, encouraging the discounter to seek more urban sites. Situated in a former Bloomingdale’s unit, the store ranks among the chain’s top 10 in sales.
Kmart officials said the Bronx unit should eventually surpass Fresh Meadows in volume and could be “one of the best” Kmarts in the U.S. The company declined to specify sales for either store.
The Kmart in the Bronx, at the intersection of I-95 and the Hutchinson River Parkway near Co-op City, is the chain’s fourth store in New York City. At 132,000 square feet, it is one of the largest Kmart discount stores, which are generally around 100,000 square feet.
“This is our march into the city,” Tom Shea, a Kmart regional manager, told about 150 store associates in a pep talk before Monday’s ribbon-cutting. Shea said Kmart plans to open its first stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and a second store in Queens, in the next 12 months. There are two Kmarts on Staten Island, and eight stores on Long Island.
Jim Ford, vice president of Kmart’s Eastern Region, said the goal should be reached by the end of November 1995, but added, “A lot depends on construction and so forth.” Ford declined to provide information about prospective sites, but said Kmart would have “no problem” operating a store in Manhattan.
Kmart, he said, was “constantly looking” at Manhattan locations.
Ford said he was “not aware” of any Kmart interest in the six sites in the region that Federated Department Stores — under an agreement with the state attorney general — has put on the block to clear the way for its merger with R.H. Macy & Co.
Ford said the current push by discounters to find locations in the region stems from a more “price-conscious” attitude on the part of consumers.
The Bronx Kmart, at 300 Baychester Ave., is a new building, with 27 registers at the front of the store, and 110,000 square feet of selling space on the ground level, including 48,000 square feet for men’s and women’s apparel — about 10,000 more square feet for apparel than a typical Kmart unit, reflecting its renewed emphasis on fashion, Ford said.
In addition to the Jaclyn Smith fashion and beauty collections, the store carries a wide assortment of bodywear, maternity, lingerie, men’s wear and children’s apparel.
Ford said Kmart’s East Coast apparel sales are running “a few” percentage points above the corporate average. Shoppers at the store Monday were impressed with the wide aisles, spacious layout and large selections.
“They seem to have everything,” one woman said, “and the prices are pretty good. They’re competitive.”
Another woman observed, “It’s a big enough store, so it won’t get crowded. There’s space to walk.”
Another shopper, who said she lives in Co-op City, said she was happy Kmart came to her neighborhood.
“I think it’s good for the community,” she said. “Overall, its a great idea.”