Long gone are the days when department stores such as Strawbridge’s and Wanamakers were the leaders of retail shopping in Philly. While most of the retail world is heavily dependent on e-commerce, one company, Boscov’s is proving to be the antithesis.
A Local Gem
In 1914, Solomon Boscov, an immigrant from Russia, opened the very first Boscov’s store at 9th & Pike Streets in Reading, PA. Then called Economy Shoe & Dry Goods, the Boscov’s brand has grown with 49 stores in New England, PA, NJ, Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio.
The 50th store is set to open this fall in Bridgeport, WV. Many people wondered how Boscov’s was able to not only survive but to thrive during the current anti-brick-and-mortar era for retail stores. Indeed, the reasons are plentiful.
A Taste Of Nostalgia
Boscov’s may be one of the last family-owned department chains that brings about a feeling of nostalgia for the good days: the days when department stores ruled the mall. Walk into your nearest Boscov’s and you’ll still find a toy department, a candy department, draperies, bedding, and small appliances. Moreover, there’s actual salespersons on the floor addressing customer’s needs. Although tailors are no longer on site, tailoring service is still offered.
“Boscov’s isn’t run by a private equity firm. They’re a family of merchants, who know who they are and know their customers,” said Michael Lisicky, historian and author of books about department stores. “Boscov’s isn’t reimagining the department store because maybe it doesn’t need to be reimagined. Not everything is broken.”
The Power of Influencers
During the pandemic, Boscov’s actually had the good fortune of increased sales due to social media. Apparently, an influencer posted about Boscov’s hoodies on Tic Tok and sales skyrocketed.
“Our hoodies were going viral,” said Boscov, 73, the CEO and public face of the privately held company, which had $1.2 billion in sales last year. “In one week we had an eightfold increase in sales of the hoodies. We sold $200,000 worth at $24.99 each,” he said. “We had been doing digital marketing for years, but it opened our eyes to the power of influencers.”
Solomon Boscov built a reputation based on honesty and fairness. It was this reputation that paved the way for the company to grow to where it is today. The primary core values of Boscov’s remain and prove to be the essential ingredient to its success. Such core values include not only a vast selection of quality merchandise including your favorite brands, incredible pricing, but also knowledgeable and friendly coworkers providing top tier customer service and ongoing community partnerships.
The Legacy Continues
Indeed, a sense of department store nostalgia, social media influence, and the upholding of core values have all ensured the continuation of the Boscov’s brand. Online shopping has increased in popularity as a result of the pandemic. However, brick-and-mortar retail shopping is not dead; malls are not dead. Boscov’s has proven this and thus the legacy started by a young Solomon Boscov over 100+ years continues.