Best Products Co. Inc. today announced a $100 million campaign to redesign more than half of its 204 catalogue showrooms across the country.
Unveiling a three-year renovation plan to a group of financial analysts, the Richmond-based discounter said it hopes that the new store design will improve the company's balance sheet, which last year recorded a drop in profits to their lowest level in nearly 10 years -- $13.6 million, 58 percent less than the previous year's earnings of $33 million.
By expanding its merchandise and by redoing its stores with bright, modern furnishings, carpet and white tile, Best hopes not only to lure more customers to its stores but also to entice its present shoppers to buy more than they might plan to when they enter the showrooms. Best said it hopes the result will be to boost sales by 5 percent, pushing Best back into financial health within two years.
Best's new design will require a customer to pass every department in the store before checking out. In addition, the company will place greater emphasis on the more profitable lines, such as jewelry and giftware, which many customers have bypassed when coming to Best. The retailer also will add some clothing lines such as basic sporting goods apparel and infants' apparel.
"We want our customers to come to scoff and stay to pay," said Best's president, Robert E. R. Hartley.
Currently, "we make it very hard for you to shop," said Bernard A. Cohen, president of Best's retailing group. Among other things, he noted that Best often requires customers to pay for each purchase separately in each of the departments in which it is bought, instead of at a general check-out counter.
Under the new arrangement, a customer will have to pay only once at a general check-out counter. Orders for goods in the catalogue also will be processed more quickly, Cohen said.
Best's renovation comes at a time when the discounter is facing increased competition from specialty chains such as Circuit City and general-merchandise discount chains such as Bradlees, which offer a greater selection at similar prices.