BIG BEAR'S NEW BRANCH PLOTS CENTER FOR GARDENS

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Big Bear Stores here has opened a 6,000-square-foot garden center in a new supermarket in Dublin, Ohio. The garden center is located in a space adjacent and connected to the main store, which opened last month. The total store is 85,000 square feet, the largest supermarket-only store in the Big Bear chain. While the retailer operates similar garden centers in its Big Bear Plus combination

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Big Bear Stores here has opened a 6,000-square-foot garden center in a new supermarket in Dublin, Ohio. The garden center is located in a space adjacent and connected to the main store, which opened last month. The total store is 85,000 square feet, the largest supermarket-only store in the Big Bear chain. While the retailer operates similar garden centers in its Big Bear Plus combination stores, this is its first garden center in a supermarket-only store, said Karen Bennett, spokeswoman. Nationally, garden centers on this scale in traditional supermarkets are rare, noted observers. "The Dublin store presented a perfect opportunity because of the location of the store and the demographics of the neighborhood," said Bennett. There will be no competing home improvement or garden store in the shopping center, which is still under construction, she noted. Additionally, "the residential area near the store includes households that do a lot of gardening," she said. Big Bear has 18 other garden centers, all in Big Bear Plus stores. The retailer may consider putting additional garden centers in other supermarkets in the future, said Bennett. "While there is nothing planned at this time, it is a good possibility down the road," she said. Another reason Big Bear decided to put a garden center in this location was local zoning regulations that prevent the retailer from displaying seasonal merchandise in front of the store, she said. For example, many Big Bear stores sell annuals on the sidewalk, she said. "There are other communities that have similar zoning restrictions and that could influence placement of garden centers elsewhere," she said. However, product selection in the department goes far beyond annuals, which the retailer was selling for 69 cents a tray and $6.99 a flat. It was a fully stocked garden shop, SN found in a store visit. Products included lawn mowers, lawn tractors, wheel barrows, lawn ornaments, watering cans, gasoline cans, planters, bird baths, fertilizers, hoses, tools like shovels and rakes, and lawn and leaf bags. Floral products included geraniums in 4-inch pots priced at two for $1, 10-inch hanging baskets for $6.79 and silk floral hanging baskets for $24.99. The garden center has indoor and outdoor display areas. The doors connecting the center to the main store are located near the cappuccino bar and sit-down eating area. The center will continue to be used during the off-season, said Bennett. "We look at the space as a multipurpose area and we plan to use it to display seasonal merchandise. For example, we hope to have pumpkins in the fall and we will use it as a Christmas shop with trim-a-tree merchandise and toys during the November to December holiday season," she said. This is the same way garden centers in the Big Bear Plus stores are used, she said.