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Intercounty Holds First Meeting Since Joining Nationwide Group

Members of the Intercounty buying group got a jump on the fall selling season, meeting earlier this month to help set their merchandise lineups for the fourth quarter.

About 90% of Intercounty’s 87 members converged on the quiet Pennsylvania town of Lancaster to take advantage of hot buys and informative seminars. With vendors still tallying orders from the show, at least $2.5 million worth of merchandise sold at the fair will be bound for sales floors.

“This is the best one we’ve ever done,” said Jay Lebowitz, Intercounty president. “And our guys weren’t even looking to stock. They were just looking for samples. The vendors are ecstatic.”

The value of the buying fair goes far beyond dollars and cents, Lebowitz said. “These conventions are so informative, because of the seminars and the camaraderie among the members.”

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, Intercounty set the fair with an emphasis on consumer electronics, but white-goods vendors also were on hand.

Intercounty members, most of them smaller independents, came into this meeting with some extra clout, following the February merger with national buying group Nationwide. The merger has allowed Intercounty to expand its merchandise offerings and enhance services, including credit terms, provided to its members.

“These are things that we could not even approach before, as strong as we were,” said Greg Mansley, Intercounty VP. “We have new distribution and a broader regional reach.”

The merger also means greater buying power for Intercounty members. “That’s what’s required now to be competitive and to get the right prices,” Mansley said.

Intercounty comes out of the buying fair with plenty of momentum and an expansion plan in place. Project 2000 is targeting an expansion of 20-25 new members and a volume increase of 30% over the next three years. Intercounty now ships about $100 million worth of product annually. White goods account for about 68% of those sales, with the remainder in consumer electronics.

To handle that growth, Intercounty next year will add 40,000 square feet to its 150,000-square-foot warehouse in Commack, N.Y. The company also plans to upgrade the facility’s distribution technology, including the addition of bar-coding.

Most Intercounty retailers have annual sales between $1 million and $2 million, with many well below that level.

“It’s important that the manufacturers do not forget about the independent retailer,” Lebowitz said. “We have a place in this industry.” Fred Meyer Set To Open Stores In Utah, Wash.

Fred Meyer, the Portland, Ore.-based department store chain, is opening four full-size locations this month: two in the Seattle area and two in Salt Lake City.

Fred Meyer operates a total of 136 stores, 102 of which are multi-department stores that include electronics and computers, and 93 of these include food departments. The remaining locations are small specialty stores such as fine jewelry mall stores.

The Seattle locations include a new 174,000-square-foot store in Renton, a suburb of Seattle and a 155,000-square-foot remodeled location in Bellevue.

In Utah, Fred Meyer is replacing two of its 11 stores in the state with its first completely new stores. All of the other Utah locations were purchased by Fred Meyer from the Grand Central chain in 1984.

The new stores include a 173,000-square-foot store in downtown Salt Lake City and a 170,000-square-foot store in the city’s West Jordan suburb, the company said.