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Linens&More for Less Opens

Optimistic about growth

Carole Sloan -- Home Textiles Today, September 2, 2010

Fred Mershad, president and ceoFred Mershad, president and ceo
HOWLAND, OHIO - With the strong opening of its first Linens&More for Less store here on July 23, Fred Mershad, president and ceo of the fledgling retailer, is more than optimistic about the company's growth potential.
     The first store debuted with sales at 25% above plan on opening day, and the four following days were more than 30% above plan.
     "Customers' reactions were very satisfactory, and even though it is an economically depressed area, we liked the demographics," Mershad commented, noting that plans for five additional units this year will be on target for similar results.
     The new stores are in small communities including Murfreesboro, Tenn., Erie, Pa., Dayton, Ohio, Paducah, Ky., and Barboursville, W.V.
     In 2011, the company will open some 15 to 20 units in larger mid-major markets including St. Louis, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, N.C., Lexington, Ky., Louisville, Ky., and two in the Harrisburg, Pa., area, and an undetermined number for 2012. "We're not opening stores for the sake of opening stores; we have a very strategic point of view."
The 38 S.O.SThe 38 S.O.S. — Super Outstanding Savings — tables and bins feature special buys that are onetime offers and are replaced frequently.
     Mershad added, "We're not going west of the Mississippi. We'll grow south and north of here. We're looking at Akron, Ohio, but we definitely don't want new stores for the sake of new stores," he emphasized.
And good news travels fast in retailing and real estate. "Now a number of developers are coming to see me."
     This year's stores are focused on female customers, 25 to 54, with household incomes of $50,000 and who live within a 10-mile radius of the store. "We also look for other retailers nearby or on site to be our neighbors." The debut store is next to Kohl's, Super K and Borders.
     The stores are 30,000 square feet with merchandise covering 25,000 square feet.The overriding theme: "The most complete assortment for three rooms - bedroom, kitchen and bath." Merchandise is fi rst quality, he insisted, there are no seconds or IRs [irregulars]. "And we believe in markdowns when merchandise is not selling. We will rebuy and restore."
Community leadersCommunity leaders and members of Congress participated in the opening ribbon cutting ceremonies.

     The S.O.S. products (Super Outstanding Savings) - featured in aisle bins - are changed weekly, "and we have back up of other merchandise when we sell out the S.O.S. items."
     In home textiles, key suppliers include Revman, Martex, Izod, Sunham, Bardwill, Lichtenberg, Revere, Divatex, Beautyrest pillows and comforters, Sealy down comforters, Southern Living, Cobra/Lintex, Downlite, Wamsutta (Springs Global), and sleep shop products from Carpenter - the latter part of a major bedding presentation of Sealy and Stearns & Foster mattresses.
     The top-of-bed assortment includes 120 patterns with 14 styles on beds with a key emphasis on color and presentation.
Bath includes 21 styles in pricing from $5.99 to $14.99 with Christy at the top of the towel assortment. Other bath suppliers include Croscill and Creative Bath.
Decorative beddingDecorative bedding is featured on beds and in a series of floor fixtures, all part of a major presentation of bedding, mattresses and sleep shop that covers one side of the store.

     In housewares, "we carry every major brand in an assortment that includes 28 different sets of boxed cookware."
     The store is laid out with wide aisles, unique fixtures and layout and quality flooring, Mershad said. To promote the opening, Linens&More For Less ran a six page, full-size color newspaper insert as well as TV and radio commercials and a once-a- month TV spot.
     The company is being run lean, with 15 people in the main office. All buyers report to Mershad.
     Suppliers are "people we know, that department stores use," said Mershad, whose more than 30 years in retailing includes heading department Elder-Beerman and Profitt's, as well as other retailers. "The suppliers bent over backwards for us - including fulfilling minimums. "There were 57 suppliers at the opening, and they had an amazing reaction to the store and the customers."

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