Boscov’s Department store has been a Lebanon County staple for 51 years.
If president and CEO Jim Boscov has his way, the Reading-based company will be firmly entrenched in the Lebanon Valley for at least the next 51 years as well.
On a day when Boscov came to congratulate and celebrate long-term employee Deb Drum for 47-plus years of employment at the department store’s Lebanon Valley Mall location, he also fielded questions from his employees during the morning team meeting on Monday, Feb. 27.
One question was particularly poignant given the recent change in retail shopping habits and the COVID-19 pandemic. The employee noted that shoppers have asked employees if the store is planning to close because they’ve heard those rumors from other customers.
“If people are really worried that we are closing, we’re not,” Boscov said, emphatically. “How long have we been here? 51 years? So we’ll be here at least another 51 years. We’re here because this is a very good business. And while we’re the dominant retailer in the area, we’re here because of you (the employees). We’re here because of what you do every day.”
An employee said shoppers say to her that this is the only store where they can find nice fashions and don’t know what they’ll do if Boscov’s shutters its Lebanon store. “I don’t know what else to do to let people know that rumors like those are absolute nonsense,” replied Boscov to her comment.
Boscov shared performance numbers for the month of February with the employees for the store, which were positive. However, he also gave the caveat that the numbers were boosted by a lack of snow this year and noted that this factor contributed to more shoppers coming into the store since winter weather contributes to fewer sales.
The numbers would indicate and support, though, his statement that Boscov’s plans to be in Lebanon County for many years to come.
Although he mentioned sales and other retail tactics as reasons the company continues to grow, he emphasized that the Boscov “family” is the key ingredient to their ongoing success. (Boscov has 49 stores in eight states and will soon be opening number 50 in Parkersburg, West Virginia, its ninth state.)
“It’s not about promotions, but what you (the employees) do every day,” said Boscov. “People ask how are you doing well and how are you able to expand when other stores are closing or not even thinking about expanding.”
He told the employees what he tells others who ask about the secret to the company’s ability to expand into new areas.
“(We have) inventory in a time when many stores don’t have any and our pricing tends to be very sharp and better than most people’s. I talk about our involvement in the community, but the real secret is what happens on the sales floor, the real secret is you,” added Boscov.
In coming to Lebanon from company headquarters in Reading, Boscov said he wanted to review the numbers while also addressing longevity as a precursor to recognizing and honoring Drum. He asked the employees how many have been with the company 5, 10, 15, 20 and more years.
About half of the hands were still raised after he finished asking that question. He noted that longevity is crucial when helping to instill in co-workers the company’s core values.
“Company culture is why we succeed,” said Boscov. “You don’t teach company culture by giving someone a handbook, you teach them by working side-by-side with them. With each year you are here, you ingrain that culture even deeper within the store.”
Following the morning meeting, LebTown asked Boscov about what plans Boscov’s has regarding growth within the mall. Boscov’s owns the entire mall and leases space to other retail stores within it.
“What I see in other places and what is happening here is that malls get repurposed,” said Boscov. “So there will be shopping, there will be services, we see other malls that provide medical offices and fitness centers, and I believe we’ll continue to see that everywhere. It is companies that don’t accept change – evolution – that have problems. I’m very lucky that I worked for my uncle who always had a vision and who was always accepting of new ideas as long as they were consistent with who we are.”
The repurposing evolution is taking place within the Lebanon Valley Mall. Not only is a church currently leasing space within the mall’s walls, but the St. James players will soon be a new tenant.
Although Boscov said no other specific plans currently exist for mall expansion, but the company is open to uses that benefit the community. As the anchor store at the mall, the ongoing success of Boscov’s will help ensure the entire mall exists into the future.
One area it thrives is offering opportunities that other retailers don’t provide to their customers.
“We are, in a way, your classic department store because we offer services that others have jettisoned,” said Boscov. “Our toy department is doing very good business as you heard earlier today. Why is that? How many months do kids have birthdays? That’s right, all of them. Why would we only be in the toy business for two months in November and December? Kids have birthdays all year long, so we want to be in the toy business.”
Boscov said the same is true for customers whose sizes are classified as petite, tall and plus-size, to name a few. He said Boscov’s is the “petite headquarters” in any town in which they are located because many retailers offer little to no selection for people in that size classification.
LebTown also asked Boscov for comment about his company seeking lower real estate tax assessments on four properties it owns in or by the mall. The company has requested lower appraised values for its main store, its furniture outlet, the Jack Williams Tire Center and Popeye’s restaurant, the latter two being located outside the mall near Route 422.
“I don’t know the particulars here, but the values of real estate change periodically and should be reassessed on a regular basis,” said Boscov.
Boscov said he had no comment on his company’s reassessment request because he is not familiar with it. LebTown published three weeks ago a report on the reassessment request and noted that county officials were still waiting for a new appraisal of those entities from its appraiser.
As of publication date for this article the county still had not received the new appraisal figures, according to Daniel L. Seaman, chief county assessor.
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