BIG BEAR EXTENDING EMBRACE ACROSS INTERNATIONAL SECTION

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Big Bear plans to roll out an international section that carries Center Store items from about 20 different countries."Right now we have expansion plans for several existing stores, and then it's something we'll look at for new stores based on store size and area," said spokeswoman Karen Bennett.The department, designed as a destination stop, is currently in three stores. It encompasses

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Big Bear plans to roll out an international section that carries Center Store items from about 20 different countries.

"Right now we have expansion plans for several existing stores, and then it's something we'll look at for new stores based on store size and area," said spokeswoman Karen Bennett.

The department, designed as a destination stop, is currently in three stores. It encompasses about 300 feet in two of the units, and 100 feet in a smaller store.

In the larger stores, two aisles are dedicated to food from Britain, the Caribbean, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. Items are featured on esthetically pleasing black shelving.

The top three most popular cuisines are Italian, Japanese and Mexican, according to Bennett.

"In the northwest Columbus area, there is a high Japanese population, which contributes to the success of the Japanese foods," she said.

Located at the beginning of the section are two crescent-shaped signs welcoming shoppers. Inside the section is a display that has eight red flags pointing shoppers to different ethnic foods. Similar signs mark the location of each of the foods in the aisle. While 3,500 stockkeeping units are actually carried in the department, another 1,500 are available upon special request.

"The international sections were an instant success," said Bennett. "And we've received many special requests for additional items."

Big Bear is raising awareness through its weekly advertisements. "We try to feature eight to 10 items per week," Bennett said. "We also conduct in-store demonstrations on a weekly basis to familiarize customers with the new products and get them to try different products."

Items promoted recently included a 15-ounce can of Kame Stir Fry Mixed Vegetables from China, which sold for 99 cents; a 2-pound bag of Nishiki Rice from Japan, 99 cents; a 30-ounce can of La Preferida Authentic Refried Beans, $1.49, and a 35-ounce can of Cento Italian Tomatoes, $1.79.