• Andrea Lillo

Fred's grabs its share

Memphis, TN — Discount general merchandiser Fred's has been "very fortunate" in procuring its closeouts in the softlines area, and will look for more opportunistic buys and closeouts in this category going forward, as announced by executives during its first quarter conference call.

"We remain an opportunistic promoter," said John Reier, president. "Our creed has been, and will remain: market share, market share, market share."

Fred's, with annual sales nearing $1 billion, has been able to drive down some of its buying costs because of an increase in volume, and the majority of savings will be passed through to the consumer, so Fred's remains competitive with Family Dollar, Wal-Mart and Dollar General, Reier said. It also will import less in the softlines area in the future, while increasing its imported hardlines business.

Its softlines business, which includes apparel and domestics, grew to 13.3 percent of sales this past quarter from 11.9 percent of sales for the same period last year.

Its proprietary Southern Expressions label, which is almost 100 percent domestics and includes bedding, bath, window and flooring, has been excellent, said Reier.

In addition, its Mississippi River Blues apparel label continues to perform well, he said.

Fred's operates 399 discount general merchandise stores, including 26 franchised Fred's stores, in the Southeast, and this fiscal year will net 60 new stores for an estimated 15 percent to 18 percent increase in selling square footage.

The average Fred's store is 16,000 square feet and targets low-, middle- and fixed-income families.

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