Retailers

Eyeing ‘Pandemic Fallout,' BJ’s Resumes New Club Growth

Chesterfield, Mich. site to open July 31
Photograph: Shutterstock

BJ’s Wholesale Club said it is preparing to open a new club on July 31 in Chesterfield, Mich.

The store, about 30 miles north of Detroit, marks the Westborough, Mass.-based membership retailer’s third location in the Wolverine State—all of which have opened in the past year and are representative of a stated strategy to accelerate expansion of the East Coast-dominant brand.

Local reports indicated the Chesterfield opening might have come sooner were it not for the COVID crisis; it would be the first new BJ’s club to open since a Pensacola, Fla., unit snuck in just ahead of the pandemic on March 6 of this year.

BJ's opened units last year in Madison Heights and Taylor, Mich., also in the Detroit region.

“We’re excited to open our doors at the end of July and provide our community with the convenience and value of a BJ’s membership,” Malika Harris, general manager of BJ’s Chesterfield store, said in a release this week. “The safety of our members, team members and community is always our top priority. Our team members have been working hard to prepare for the opening with additional operational safety protocols to ensure a healthy and safe shopping environment. We’re grateful for the warm welcome we’ve received so far and look forward to providing essential services to the Chesterfield community.”

Company officials have guided to a modest expansion this fiscal year—according to Chief Financial Officer Robert Eddy, “a little bit better” than the three new units and six new gas bars that opened during fiscal 2019. Its fiscal year began Feb. 2.

BJ’s growth plans will be funded in part through a $100 million productivity program known as Project Momentum. But Eddy added the retailer’s real estate team was keeping its eyes open to bargains that might come with the pandemic that could accelerate growth over the longer term.

“Any real estate opportunities that come along—and we are firm believers that there will be many as the pandemic fallout makes its way through retail—we will be very aggressive in trying to take advantage of those opportunities,” Eddy remarked during an earnings conference call with analysts in May, according to a Sentieo transcript. “Our real estate team is already out in the markets, beating the bushes, trying to get out in front of the opportunities.”

BJ’s new club identification team is led by Bill Werner, the company’s SVP of strategic planning and investor relations. “That team is out there understanding and mapping where all of our retail competitors are. Who are the ones that we think might be in trouble and that have considerable real estate opportunities of size that we could use. And so we will take every opportunity to be very aggressive,” Eddy continued.

According to Beitz and Daigh’s Planned Grocery app, BJ’s has proposed or planned new stores in Seabrook, N.H., Norwalk, Conn., St. Johns, Fla., Commack, N.Y., and Staten Island, N.Y. The Commack unit would take over a portion of a site formerly belonging to the beleaguered department store chain Macy’s.

The Chesterfield store will be situated near a Cabela’s outdoor store and a Walmart Supercenter; Meijer and Kroger also have units nearby.

BJ’s said the club would adhere to new safety and sanitation standards adopted during the crisis. Employees and shoppers will be required to wear face coverings in the store, and workers will have their temperatures checked upon reporting to work, the company said.

BJ’s limited assortment, member fees and efficiency measures allow for everyday prices about 25% less than supermarkets. The company said it differs from wholesale club competitors by accepting manufacturer coupons and by offering what it says is a larger selection of fresh foods.

The Chesterfield store will also offer pickup for orders purchased online and offer same-day grocery delivery through Instacart.

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