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Indie P.C. Richard Opens Doors Of 43rd Superstore

6/25/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Despite the soft retail environment and new encroachments by Best Buy, Lowe's and other big box chains, regional majap and CE powerhouse P.C. Richard & Son opened its 43rd store this month in this blue collar community located across the river from Manhattan.

Gary Richard, third-generation head of the 92-year-old family business, joked that the timing of the 40,000-square-foot superstore was hardly heroic; the company was merely committed to the real estate deal it brokered more than two years earlier, he said.

More somberly, Richard acknowledged that "Business is soft, it's slow. We gotta fight for each sale." He attributed the downturn to consumer insecurity over the fallen stock market, rather than any change in disposable income. Nevertheless, the pullback in spending is impacting his stores, which "work on razor-thin margins or no margins at all." The situation is only compounded by the influx of national competitors.

"Any time a new store opens, people will sell product, and that's one less item that we have the opportunity to sell," he said.

In addition, the cost of doing business has risen with the greater use of plastic in white goods, which breaks rather than bends. "You can't knock out dents and bangs like you used to," said Richard, whose chain ranked sixth on TWICE's Major Appliance Retail Registry with $300 million in majap sales last year.

To help shore up profits, the retailer added super premium brands like Viking and Thermador to its assortment several years ago, and will begin testing a dedicated, freestanding showroom adjacent to its Belmore, N.Y. store to service the builder and home remodeling trade. "The super high-end has been good to us," acknowledged Gary's son Gregg, the company's VP/merchandising and heir apparent.

Also favoring the business is its low overhead, which is a function of its thinly layered management and a policy of owning, rather than leasing, real estate.

But perhaps most important is P.C. Richard's sense of community, as demonstrated by its charitable contributions and an anecdote offered by N.Y. Yankee sportscaster Roberto Clemente Jr., one of several sports figures on hand here for a ribbon-cutting gala.

The son of the baseball legend recalled visiting several New York CE stores during a break between games back in 1986. Wearing a T-shirt, shorts and "a big Afro" haircut, he was repeatedly shown the door after inquiring about high-end A/V systems — until he came to a P.C. Richard outlet. There he was treated with courtesy and respect, earning the chain the $2,000 he was carrying in his pocket along with his enduring loyalty.

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