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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 1 year ago

Economic Forecast: Retailer invests in existing stores, new shopping concept

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Retail — Steve Knopik, CEO, Bealls Inc., Bradenton
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Company: Bealls’ fiscal year is August through July, so this past fiscal year included the impacts of Hurricane Irma. “The month of September last year was certainly one to forget,” says Steve Knopik, CEO of Bealls Inc., a Bradenton-based retailer with more than 500 stores and $1.34 billion in revenue last year. “We believe that you’ve got to really learn to play through, as they say in golf. Play through your troubles.” Now the company is bouncing back, he says.

This year, for example, the company plans to open 13 more Bealls Outlet stores. “The off-price segment of our ilk of retailing has been performing quite well for a number of years,” he says.

Bealls also plans more remodels and updates of existing stores. “You have to continue to invest in your stores,” Knopik says.

This year, there also will be opportunities related to Home Centric, the company’s new chain selling home-related items. “We’re very excited about that,” Knopik says. “We have confidence it’s going to work well. It gives us yet another growth vehicle.”

Industry: Knopik says in general, all the "economic indicators point to a good year for retailing."

Opportunities ahead for the retail industry include customer loyalty programs, e-commerce and customization. “Retailers have access to a whale of a lot of information based upon the transactions people have conducted,” he says. “Use of data to gain insights into customers’ preferences and the ability to act on that will continue to evolve.”

Store closings will still be an industry challenge. “There will be continued disruption from online in our ilk of retailers, and we have to compete there,” he says. “I think it’s certainly difficult for regional players to be successful, and we’re one of the few that has had some success.”

Threats: “On the cost side of things, I do think that transportation costs are a looming challenge,” Knopik says. Freight costs are going up, he says, affecting how Bealls moves products from distribution centers to stores and customers.

There are also concerns on the international stage. “Trade wars and tariffs will continue to be something that wears on the minds of retail CEOs,” Knopik says.

“Our biggest opportunity," he says, "is to continue to read the results, fine-tune our offerings and compete in the marketplace well at a price standpoint, and if we can do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

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