P.C. Richard Launches New Offensive

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P.C. Richard & Son, the granddaddy of New York area brown- and white-goods dealers and the country's sixth largest appliance chain, is on a tear.

Despite major encroachments as Best Buy, The Home Depot and Lowe's back-fill the metro market with dozens of stores, or more accurately because of it, the 95-year-old retailer is on the move again.

This time, the billion-dollar company is preparing to open two new Manhattan locations later this year — its third and fourth in the borough — and has been busy adding high end "Design Center" appliance shops to existing stores.

To date, the 47-unit regional has retrofitted eight New Jersey stores with Design Centers, and has incorporated a 3,000-square-foot shop into a newly relocated, 42,000-square-foot superstore near headquarters here on Long Island.

"We're putting more focus on the higher end," said VP/merchandising Gregg Richard, great-grandson of founder Peter Christiaan Richard, a Dutch immigrant. "We'll do remodels in stores where we have the room."

The company opened its first Design Center two years ago as a freestanding storefront for the builder and home remodeling trades, but now uses the shops to set apart its super premium assortment of white goods, including Bosch, Thermador, Sub-Zero, Viking and Wolf, from its more mass market lines.

Design Centers will also be featured within the new Manhattan stores to be located at Broadway and W. 86th Street and W. 23rd Street in Chelsea, the latter literally across the street from Best Buy's first Manhattan store and a forthcoming Home Depot.

Despite the additions, Richard says there's no imperative to build more stores. "We are a private company that doesn't need to expand. We're also a real estate company," he said, referring to a policy of owning, rather than leasing, locations. "If the right location comes up, the terms makes sense and we see a void in the area, we'll open a store."

P.C. Richard is also expanding online. The company, which paid $1.8 million last year for the name and intellectual property of failed New York rival The Wiz, has resurrected the brand for use on the company's second e-commerce site, thewiz.com. Richard says consumers are still responding to the franchise, as the site is enjoying brisk traffic without any advertising support.

Indeed, business is brisk in all channels, Richard reports. "The year started very strong, and February" — aided by the extra day for Leap Year and strong comps against last year's Presidents' Day snowstorm — "was a terrific month," he said.

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