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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Burlington Coat Factory scouting Hawai'i location

By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

Off-price retailer Burlington Coat Factory says it is seeking a Hawai'i location for one of its warehouse-style stores.

In addition to coats, Burlington is a big seller of home furnishings, shoes, kitchen and bath accessories, baby clothing, dresses, sportswear and jewelry. It is a major competitor of Ross Stores, but also would largely compete with small specialty retailers and department stores.

Retail analysts expect the company's interest in Hawai'i will be part of a small wave of Mainland retailers looking to the state because of its moderately improving economy, compared to a severe fall-off in economic growth on the Mainland.

"They go where the money is," said Dean Hamada, a partner at Core Realty LLC, a Honolulu-based commercial real estate firm scouting sites for Burlington. "Our economy is definitely a lot better right now than the Mainland."

Burlington is looking at sites from Central to Leeward O'ahu for one of its full-size stores, which typically range from 80,000 square feet to 110,000 square feet (the same size as Costco in Hawai'i Kai).

Local marketing analyst Marty Plotnick said that with Burlington's full line of merchandise and a high-traffic location, he believes the company can do well in Hawai'i.

Ross, he noted, has been successful with a number of fairly large stores (10 stores averaging 30,000 square feet each) since it came to Hawai'i in 1993.

Burlington's focus on coats will add to its appeal, according to Plotnick. He said Mainland and Japanese visitors, as well as kama'aina who travel to cold climates, represent a market that may be bigger than expected.

Burlington spokesman Ric Bramble emphasized that the company sells more than coats. "The name is very deceiving," he said. "Some stores sell shampoos."

About $500 million of Burlington's $2.2 billion in revenue during the 2000 fiscal year ended June 3 came from sales of home products.

Bramble also noted that Arizona, Southern California and Florida are three top markets for coat sales for Burlington, which has about 300 stores in 42 states. He said overseas tourists, many of whom visit the United States during the summer when it is winter at home, represent a significant customer base.

Burlington sells off-price, current-season merchandise from more than 1,000 name-brand manufacturers. The company dates to 1924 as an "outerwear" wholesaler, but got into retail when it acquired a coat factory and outlet store in Burlington, N.J., in 1972.

Burlington opened 22 new stores in its last fiscal year, and anticipates opening 16 more by the end of this fiscal year. The earliest the company could open a store in Hawai'i would be next year, if it finds a suitable site.