BIG Y ADDING BANKS AT WORLD UNITS

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Big Y Foods here will install full-service bank branches next month at two World Class Markets stores, one here and another under construction in West Springfield.The decision came after a bank branch recently installed at a Worcester store generated increased shopper traffic, according to Charles D'Amour, chief operating officer.He said the new bank branches will represent "another

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Big Y Foods here will install full-service bank branches next month at two World Class Markets stores, one here and another under construction in West Springfield.

The decision came after a bank branch recently installed at a Worcester store generated increased shopper traffic, according to Charles D'Amour, chief operating officer.

He said the new bank branches will represent "another important convenience of our World Class Markets, which already offer customers in-store dining and dry cleaning services."

Big Y operates 32 stores in western Massachusetts and Connecticut, four of which are World Class Markets, including the store under construction.

Big Y tested in-store banking approximately 10 years ago, but had withdrawn because "in the past, bank branches were open when the banks wanted to be open.

"There was very little interest on the part of bankers to reach out and tap our customers who were already in the store," said Claire D'Amour, vice president of corporate affairs.

There is a difference this time around, she told SN.

"Bankers are putting on their retailer hats and throwing away their banking hats. The new bank branches are embracing the supermarket retail concept and prepared to work as partners in providing customer services."

The two new bank branches, operated by Woronoco Savings Bank, Westfield, will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday. The Worcester store bank branch, opened two years ago, is operated by National Commerce Bank in Memphis, Tenn.

D'Amour said Big Y Foods plans to open seven more World Class Markets stores, primarily in Connecticut, in the next couple of years and the 55,000-square-foot sites are designed to accommodate bank branches.

The World Class Markets store format emphasizes convenience, with services like "pizza to go" and one-hour photo processing. The expansion of banking services in supermarkets appears to be heating up. The latest entrant is Time Supermarket, which this month opened a bank branch at a supermarket in Honolulu, where the 12-store chain is based. The facility, operated by Central Pacific Bank, Honolulu, offers full services seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday.

In late September, SN learned of plans to roll out banking branches at 400 Lucky Stores, Dublin, Calif.; a seven-store expansion at Giant Food, Carlisle, Pa., and the introduction of banking at D&W Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich.