• Andrea Lillo

Bon Marché goes small in Mont.

HELENA, MT -This small city of almost 30,000 people-Montana's capital-is the ideal spot for The Bon Marché to build its new concept big box store, the first of its kind for Federated Department Stores, as was announced late December.

"Most stores in Federated have traditionally been enclosed in malls or downtown," said Dan Edelman, chairman. And, for the Bon Marche chain, "there is very little opportunity in the Northwest to expand into new malls-and I'm not sure we need to be-so we decided to target smaller, under-serviced areas where customers typically drive 100 miles to a shopping center."

The new concept store is unique in its single-level, single-entrance layout, with all of the cash registers at the front. It will also have shopping carts, which will be new for Bon Marché. "We're making the shopping experience easier ...We'll be the upscale store in town."

The 65,000-square-foot store will be similar in size to other Bon Marché stores, Edelman said, which can range from 60,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet. About 17 percent of the layout will be devoted to home. Though some Bon Marche stores have freestanding furniture galleries, the new concept store will exclude furniture. Construction is scheduled for the spring, with the opening to come in the fall.

Edelman has plans for a rollout strategy to follow, but "we have to see how this works out." Already, he said, other Federated divisions like Burdine's and Stern's have looked at the concept as well.

The Bon Marché is headquartered in Seattle with stores in Washington, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming.

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