What if I told you there’s a modern-day equivalent of AM&As, and there’s a chance it might be headed for the Buffalo Niagara retail market?
It’s called Boscov’s, and Buffalonians in the know are going gaga for it.
Once it’s on your radar, you might find yourself lobbying its corporate office for a Buffalo location to call your own, much like fans of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Sonic Drive-In did. Just as some people keep close tabs on Chick-fil-A and Costco, looking for signs they might be edging toward an opening here, you might find yourself watching Boscov’s every move.
It's not a modern-day AM&As exactly, but it has some of the same qualities that make you feel nostalgic, coupled with good prices and the kind of retail updates that streamline shopping in the 21st century.
Imagine a department store with a candy counter – one with high-quality chocolates sold by the pound, where you can sit and watch fudge being made before your eyes.
How about an honest-to-goodness toy department? And get this: There’s a deep-discount section in a back room of the store, reminiscent of AM&As bargain basement, with a selection of discounted products similar to what you might find at Ollie’s.
Though it has that warm, fuzzy feel we remember from department stores of yore, Boscov’s is clean, modern, organized and well-lit. Its clothing and cosmetics feature both popular name brands and high-quality house brands. Its merchandising concept, best described by my friend Ryan, is as if Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target had a baby.
And it has a more contemporary, linear layout with miniature aisles – sort of like what J.C. Penney was going for with its rebrand, but more appealing.
Now, before I get your hopes up, let me be clear: Boscov’s has not announced any plans to expand here. And they didn’t respond to a question about their interest in the Buffalo Niagara market.
In fact, the more than 100-year-old company has just 47 locations in seven states and most recently has opened new stores at the glacial pace of about one per year.
However, two of its most recent additions have been on either side of Western New York. One opened in Utica in 2016, another set up shop in Erie, Pa., last year. But with a retail supply chain already running through our market, it would make sound business sense for Boscov’s to plunk another store down right in the middle, especially in a market that would take so well to what the company has to offer.
Boscov’s is a bright spot in the tumultuous retail industry. While other department stores are closing brick-and-mortar locations by the hundreds, Boscov’s is growing slowly but surely.
We lost Sears stores at Walden Galleria and Boulevard Mall. We lost Macy’s at the McKinley and Eastern Hills malls. We lost J.C. Penney and are losing Peeble’s in Dunkirk on Jan. 20. Bon-Ton is struggling. Traditional department stores are closing left and right, leaving malls without anchors and leaving millions of square feet of retail space vacant.
Boscov’s is not going to fill the yawning void left by all that shuttered brick-and-mortar, nor does it claim it will. But the chain’s three latest locations filled two former Sears stores and a former J.C. Penney. And as those traditional retailers vacate, they put the strong and steady Boscov’s in a great position to move forward.
Another positive: Since Boscov’s is not part of a publicly traded empire, it’s not beholden to shareholders and their short-term interests. It has breathing room to put down roots in a community like Buffalo Niagara and grow.
And man, wouldn’t it be nice to have some good news in the department store realm again?