— By Marsha Brown
New Jersey retailer's growth attributed to willingness to catering to moms
WEATHERFORD — A line of customers, comprised mostly of young moms started gathering at about 8 a.m. Thursday (Feb. 25), despite the strong chill in the morning breeze. The growing crowd was mostly good-natured, waiting for the doors to open to customers for the first time at The Children’s Place.
“I was surprised at all the buzz last night on Facebook,” said Naomi Fontelera, manager for The Children’s Place. “I’m from Fort Worth and I’m amazed and thrilled at how excited everyone around Weatherford is about our store opening.”
The Children’s Place drew customers from a large market area. Misty Draper drove in from Santo to shop.
“I love it,” said Draper, a mother of three. “I’ve shopped at their stores in the malls. This one is great. It’s spacious and well organized and they have great customer service. I was afraid they’d be having trouble with that because they were so busy but they were right on tee. I go to the mall a lot to shop and it’s crowded and exhausting. I’ll be back to shop at this store, definitely.”
Members of the company’s regional corporate team, who are based in Dallas, were more than satisfied with the response for the new store.
“We’ve received an outstanding reception in Weatherford,” District Sales Manager Christopher Davila said. “When I pulled up to the store early this morning there was a line of customers around the building. The reception right out of the gate is exciting.”
Publicly traded, The Children’s Place Inc. is based in Secaucus, N.J., (Nasdaq: PLCE) and in February announced net sales of $95.1 million for the four-week period ending Jan. 30, 2010. Those figures reflect an 18 percent increase compared to net sales of $80.3 million for the four-week period that ended Jan. 31, 2009. Comparable retail sales, which include online sales, increased 12 percent in January 2010 as compared to a 4 percent decline in January 2009. During January 2010, comparable store sales increased 12 percent in the U.S. and 1 percent in Canada, while online sales increased 34 percent.
For the fiscal year ending Jan. 30, 2010, net sales increased 1percent to $1,643.6 million.
The company’s comparable retail sales for fiscal 2009 declined 2 percent following a 5 percent increase over the previous year. For fiscal 2009, comparable store sales declined 4 percent in the U.S. and 6 percent in Canada, while online sales increased 34 percent.
During January, the company opened one store and closed seven. During fiscal 2009, the company opened 38 stores and closed eight.
Weatherford Ridge is a power center planned from its inception as an upscale retail center with a strong focus on soft goods as opposed to Weatherford Market Place that has more general retailers like Lowe’s and PetSmart.
The Children’s Place contracts production of merchandise to manufacturers, and then sells under The Children’s Place brand name. Each Children’s Place store is divided into five sections, serving the needs of specific size ranges, namely Big Girls and Big Boys (4-14), Baby Girls and Baby Boys (6 months-4T), and Newborn (0–12 months).
The Weatherford Ridge store represents a departure for the company from the past when The Children’s Place stores were located in and around regional malls, while a few were opened in strip centers, outlet centers, and street stores.
What was it about Weatherford that influenced The Children’s Place decision-makers to place a presence in Parker County?
“Texas has always been a strong market for us,” Corporate Spokeswoman Rosalina Martinez said. “We looked at where our best-performing stores are and where our customers lived and we found that Parker County was one place where there was a good concentration of our loyal customers who were already driving more half an hour or more to shop with us.”
Draper, with daughter Shelbie, 4, spent three hours in the store and came out with three shopping bags of merchandise.
“I take my shopping seriously,” Draper said. “I have two daughters and a son and three nieces too. I shop for them too.”