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National Retailers Continue Store Build Outs Unabated

It’s damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead for retailers who are continuing to add stores and infrastructure in the face of a shell-shocked economy.

Among dealers adding new units this month and last are New York metro area CE chain The Wiz; regional brown and white goods powerhouse H.H. Gregg; and up-market CE specialist Ultimate Electronics.

And while their expansion plans arguably pre-dated Sept. 11 and the worsening economy, Best Buy and Wal-Mart recently announced an aggressive spate of new construction projects that won’t even begin until 2002.

For The Wiz, its newest unit, located in Manalapan, N.J., represents its 14th store in the Garden State and its 43rd location chain-wide. The 25,755-square-foot store incorporates the Cablevision subsidiary’s newest interactive design concept, which was first introduced in 1999 and received The Society of American Registered Architects’ design award of honor.

As with the handful of other new and retrofitted units that feature the new format, the focal point of this latest Wiz is a 20×7.5-foot video wall that carries Cablevision programming and promotions. Explained chief operating officer Norm Goldberg, “As we continue to grow by adding strong new locations in high traffic shopping areas, we will expand the market for our merchandise and Cablevision’s properties and services.”

H.H. Gregg has even more to celebrate, having opened three Ohio units late last month and a fourth on Nov. 1. The stores, located in the Northeast Ohio towns of Mentor, North Randall, North Canton and Parma, were inaugurated with ribbon-cutting ceremonies and a month-long series of grand opening specials. The new units bring NATM member H.H. Gregg’s store tally up to 46 locations throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

Meanwhile, Ultimate Electronics will continue its recent run of stepped up store openings by entering the St. Louis market for the first time later this month with its 42nd and 43rd units. The 34,000-square-foot stores will feature Ultimate’s signature 15-foot-high Technology Towers in the center of the selling floors and a Chrysler PT Cruiser in which to demo car audio and video.

The regional dealers aren’t the only merchants investing in new construction. Last month Best Buy announced plans to build its eighth regional distribution center, designed to serve its rapidly expanding Northeast store contingent. The $40 million, 650,000-square-foot facility, which will be completed in Upstate New York by spring 2003, will supply current and future Best Buy units from Maine to Maryland, and will relieve the Findlay, Ohio, warehouse that currently serves them.

But the most massive build-out will come from Wal-Mart, which plans to add 46 million square feet of retail space and 7 million square feet of distribution space next year. Those tallies include 50 new discount stores; upwards of 185 new, relocated or expanded Supercenters; as many as 55 new, relocated or expanded Sam’s Club warehouse stores; two new regional distribution centers for general merchandise; and 130 stores and warehouse clubs overseas.