Bingo!, Cries One Creative Operator

Mar 25, 2002

In an era when department store dining rooms are nearly extinct, Bingo players meet twice weekly at the Cream City Cafeteria for camaraderie and to compete for wrapped prize packages of candlesticks, towels or costume jewelry. “Because of Southridge’s unique position in the community, it’s important to keep it (the cafeteria) there,” says Bob Bluhm, Southridge Boston Store manager.

Barb Mewman, a 30-year veteran of the company, runs the cafeteria. She came up with the idea of running Bingo games 17 years ago, when her boss asked her to open the cafeteria on Sundays. Faced with the prospect of having to stay open for the full store schedule to meet her revenue goals, Mewman decided to try offering a single meal sitting, by reservation, with free bingo games.

While many department stores around the country have converted their restaurant spaces to other purposes, some have found that the excess floor space makes a good community center. Boscov’s, a privately owned East Coast chain, has converted the entire top floor of some of its stores to community centers, according to Chicago retail consultant Sid Doolittle. Boscov’s has found that the events bring people into the stores and help drive sales, he says.

Moderator Comment: How can traditional retail stores
enhance the shopping experience of consumers?

Master the basics before doing anything else – clean
stores, stocked shelves and friendly, knowledgeable associates.

Stew Leonard’s petting zoo may be an attraction, for
example, but it would not be enough to keep consumers coming back if the stores
were filthy and always out-of-stock on popular products. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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