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In a switch from national chains shutting stores in Northeast Ohio, Ross Dress for Less is entering the region as part of its Ohio expansion program.
Ross Dress for Less is owned by Dublin, Calif.-based Ross Stores Inc., which operates 1,550 stores across the nation and describes itself as the largest off-price apparel and home goods chain in the United States.
A Ross spokeswoman, who preferred not to be identified by name, said in an email to Crain"s Cleveland Business that the company plans to expand in the region as part of its move into Northeast Ohio but declined to say how many stores it might open here.
The company on Oct. 28 opened its first Northeast Ohio store at The Plaza at Chapel Hill, 230 Howe Ave. in Cuyahoga Falls. Insiders say additional stores are in the works in Brooklyn and Mentor. Ross said it declines to comment on locations of individual stores until they are about to open. It has four Ohio stores open after entering the state 11 months ago.
Arrival of the chain, ubiquitous in some other parts of the country, is welcome news in the region"s hard-hit retail real estate sector.
"It"s a good tenant to be adding to the market," said Tony Visconsi, retail managing director of Hanna Commercial"s Cleveland office. "There are a lot of shopping center owners in negotiations with them as we speak."
Keith Hamulak, a vice president in the retail unit at CBRE"s Cleveland office, said, "It will be good for the consumer to bring another retailer into the market, especially in the apparel space."
Ross Dress for Less is likely to add at least nine more stores in the Cleveland and Akron areas, and perhaps more, Visconsi estimated, to cover key shopping districts here. That many stores also are needed to ensure it has enough scale to justify regional TV advertising buys.
However, Visconsi said Ross Dress for Less stores often are located closer together than those of other retailers.
The Ross Stores spokeswoman said locations are determined by demographics and an analysis of how each location is doing, but declined to specify a geographic service area for each store. The company is also known for offering local stores merchandising flexibility.
At The Plaza at Chapel Hill, the addition of Northeast Ohio"s first Ross Dress for Less store allowed shopping center owner ShopOne Centers REIT Inc. of New York City to fill a vacant former OfficeMax store, according to Bob Dake, executive vice president of leasing at ShopOne.
"They"re a great brand and have a great product offering," Dake said.
The Ross Dress for Less lease and other retailers landed recently by ShopOne have hiked occupancy of the center to more than 95%. Dake said he believed ShopOne"s relationship with Ross Dress for Less in other markets helped it win the store for its Cuyahoga Falls plaza.
The stores typically occupy 18,000 to 22,000 square feet of selling space, according to a November 2019 investor presentation on its website. It also desires co-tenancy with retailers such as Target. The company does not disclose how many staffers it hires per store, the spokeswoman said.
In addition to women"s apparel, Ross Dress for Less also stocks clothes for men and children, shoes, home goods and fashion accessories. It sells name brands at 20% to 60% discounts from comparable department and specialty store prices.
Ross said as many as 75% of its shoppers are female and are buying for the entire family.
Ross currently operates Dress for Less stores in 39 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, and believes it can sustain 3,000 stores across the country to make it a national retailer.
Part of its strategy, according to the investor presentation, is to move into the void left by closings of other retailers, which have been epidemic, due in part to the rise of online retailing that has emptied the familiar Charming Charlie, Avenue and, soon, the last of the DressBarn stores in the region.
Although Ross Dress for Less is a new name here, it is part of the off-price category that so far has stood up in the face of Amazon and online retailers, although the category seems filled with stores that are plain and similar on their interior.
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