Wholly owned Subsidiary the Penn website traffic Co.Incorporated: 1933Employees: 11,500Sales: $1.39 billionSIC: 5411 grocery store Stores

Big Bear stores Co., a wholly own subsidiary the Penn web traffic Co., is a local grocery chain operating 65 supermarkets, principally in Ohio, but likewise in West Virginia. The firm also operates 17 department stores and also 12 large Bear to add stores, i beg your pardon are mix department/grocery stores.

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Shortly after King Kullen released the supermarket idea in brand-new York, Wayne E. Brown founded huge Bear shop in Columbus, Ohio. The very first supermarket in the Midwest, big Bear was located in a former skating rink. In ~ 47,000 square feet, that was large by contemporary standards. Shoppers chosen the variety such a store could offer, with the butcher, baker and grocer situated in one place. Large Bear likely pioneered the idea of one-stop shopping: that premiere store contained a drugstore, restaurant, liquid department and shoe repair save in addition to foodstuffs.

In the love of the depression, homemakers invited the low-prices made possible by the store’s bulk purchases. Moreover, items to be attractively displayed so that the customer might pick them off the shelves without the assist of a clerk. Timeless store owner disparaged the supermarket concept, believing that customers would certainly steal more than they would buy if given free access to the shelves. Although shoplifting did come to be a far-reaching problem for supermarkets, the principle of do-it-yourself to buy was right here to stay. Large Bear attracted 200,000 people on its opened day; and the agency opened up its second store in a Columbus piano manufacturing facility just one year later.

From the start, large Bear used print and also radio advertising and in-store promotions. In 1936, shoppers could win $5 come $25 through mixing 6 words v “Big Bear” and “low prices” to produce a keep slogan. In 1937, Brown and other supermarket owners formed The Supermarket Institute, a professional association for supermarket operators. V the association, the stores to be able to develop and also share concepts and also conveniences such as motorized examine out counters, wire shopping carts, automatic leave doors, fluorescent lighting, bakeries, and other in-store departments.

During the 1940s, the firm went public and continued to thrive by building new stores. It likewise bought the end and linked with Miller shop Co., in 1943. In 1948, large Bear joined with other supermarkets to type Topeo Associates. Situated in Skokie, Illinois, the corporation employed scientists and researchers come develop and acquire assets for distribution.

In 1954, big Bear to buy Harts discount stores, which operated stores in Lexington, Kentucky, and also Evansville, Indiana. In addition to operating the chain, the firm drew top top the Harts merchandise to rise the mix that non-grocery items in the big Bear stores.

By 1956, huge Bear activate 21 supermarkets in Ohio cities with sales of over $50 million, and also became a trend-setter in supermarket design. The chain introduced a extensively imitated layout in i m sorry the perishable departments were located in the middle of the store, through low display fixtures to highlight them, if the store overall was painted in a spectrum the pastel colors. Large Bear was additionally the first in the country to use the new IBM 305 Ramac audit machine.

In 1957, big Bear built its very first stores external of Ohio, in West Virginia. The company also activate a trading stamp subsidiary. Like many grocery stores, huge Bear awarded client a number of stamps relying on how much money they spent; the stamps can then it is in redeemed because that a variety of items. The popularity of the stamps declined throughout the industry, however, dropping turn off sharply in the late 1960s till the practice disappeared altogether by the so late 1970s.

Keeping in step with the industry, huge Bear ongoing to grow steadily. During the 1960s, the chain raised by a couple of stores every year, copy its size by the end of the decade. The agency was taken private in 1973, the exact same year the founder Brown retired. Brown, that was ill, own 20 percent the the company’s shares and also held voting control through another class that stock. Through his cooperation, the chain was purchased v a leveraged buyout by Oppenheimer Partners, new York, i beg your pardon then ended up being Odyssey Partners. Around $50 million in equity was purchased native shareholders. A great deal of blame was assumed, but no holdings were marketed to salary it off; all blame was reserved to it is in repaid through 1991. The company remained intact and also management was no changed. At that time, Michael Knilans, who had actually joined the agency as a bag young in 1942, assumed the presidency.

Larger chain such as A&P, Pick and also Pay, and also Fisher foods items opened in Columbus during the 1970s and early 1980s, yet were pushed out while large Bear preserved its organize on 30 percent of the Columbus market. Continuing its sample of slow and steady growth, from 1976 come 1981, big Bear constructed ten large Bear stores and also one warehouse market. It opened three warehouse stores and two minimal assortment outlets in present buildings. By 1981, the chain consisted of 58 big Bear supermarkets, four Grocery Warehouses, and two crate Stores.

By the 1980s, the chain had emerged a selection of store styles suited to various communities. For scattered populations, there was the mix Harts family Center/Big bear Stores. Warehouse shop fared better in tiny cities, while middle-income areas still forced conventional supermarkets. The traditional stores ranged indigenous 32,000 to 42,000 feet and also included scratch bakeries and also complete delis, through stock differing according to the needs of the community where the unit to be located; this dimension unit continued to comprise the majority of huge Bear stores built because the 1980s.

In 1981, in solution to the farming white collar suburbs north of Columbus, the agency introduced the much more cosmopolitan an excellent Big Bear. At 42,000 feet, it carried almost 20,000 items and also was aimed in ~ the upper-middle-class consumer, supplying such specialty assets as fresh scallops, imported cheeses and also a herbal food boutique. The an initial unit’s opening day—featuring a miss America jogger up, a talk robot, and 110 year-old lobster—attracted 5,000 people. The store quickly came to be one the the highest-volume industries in the Columbus area, reaching $300,000 a mainly in sales, and cutting right into the sales that area natural food stores.

With 63 stores and 27 Harts discount room stores, the firm had deserve $8.6 million in budget year 1982 ~ above sales that $652 million. In 1983, the firm went public for the second time. In order to fund expansion and also the remodeling of older units, big Bear offered 1.75 million typical shares, through the current holders offering around 25 percent of your stock because that sale.

In 1985, large Bear had sales the $650 million and also Forbes ranked it number one among 27 regional supermarkets chains in return top top equity and important variable in profitability. The next year, Cub Foods gone into the Columbus market. The store had pushed under competitors in other sectors with its short prices and warehouse style. Rather of trying come beat Cub in ~ its very own game, large Bear capitalized top top its competitor’s weaknesses. The agency stepped up customer solutions at the save which would contend with the Cub unit, doubling employees there to 155. The newly remodeled store was may be to keep its sales, and huge Bear maintained its hold on one-third the the Columbus grocery sector with that is 27 area stores. The chain also operated 35 stores outside the Columbus area, consisting of seven in West Virginia and also over 30 discount department stores. In fiscal 1988, the company had a net income of $16.3 million top top sales the $930 million.

With no national competitors in their sector areas, big Bear was fiscally healthy and also well-managed when Penn web traffic Co., which already operated several local grocery chains, relocated in on it. In December 1988, pen had acquired a 14.5 percent stake in the coming, for about $45 million through a privately negotiated transaction through Value same Associates i L.P. Of new York. V the financial backing of Salomon Brothers, Penn available to acquisition the staying shares at $35 a share, or around $296 million altogether. Large Bear rubbish the sell and embraced a shareholder rights plan in an initiative to deter the undesirable take over, which could reason loss to the company’s existing stockholders. The firm retained Goldman, Sachs & Co. As a financial adviser, in order come buy time to testimonial the situation and also develop alternatives. Despite the company’s efforts, penn was able to purchase the chain in 1989. However, the price was increased to $38.60 a share, or a total of $290 million. At that time, Knilans retired and John E. Josephson, formerly senior vice-president the finance and CFO of penn Traffic, stepped into the presidency.

Heading into the 1990s, big Bear continued its time-tested strategy the slow growth through stores tailored to the surrounding community. The newest tendency was toward bigger stores through even much more mixture between general merchandise and also traditional supermarket fare. In 1992, there were 11 large Bear plus stores, a format created by tearing under the wall surface in complexes wherein a Harts and huge Bear had operated next by side.

In 1993, big Bear developed a save in Grove City, Ohio, which to be their largest to date at 52,000 square feet of offering floor. Yet the firm planned to construct a store twice that size, about 120,000 square feet. The new design clustered perishable goods in the former of the store, hope to tempt shoppers as shortly as they entered. This “power aisle” consisted of a organization deli, bakery, and produce, seafood and meat departments. The new bakery contained a $20,000 maker which scanned photographs and reproduced them on cake through food coloring. The rest of the perimeter contained dairy, soft drinks, a walk-through beer cooler, frozen food, a full organization band and also a flower shop.

As because that the remainder of the store, groceries and the pharmacy were located in the center, together with a huge selection of non-food items, consisting of clothing, stationary, handmade items and photo frames, calculators, cameras, compact discs, sporting goods, toys and appliances such together coffee makers, toasters and also handheld vacuums. The non-food items were integrated with food items. For instance, playthings were possibly inserted next to cold cereal. Altogether, the new store offered 80,000 different items.

In 1993, after 30 shop participated in a year-long Nielsen study on the efficiency of the system, huge Bear decided to extend the Vision worth Network to every 71 that its stores. The network detailed a touch-sensitive screen offering immediate discounts, and also terminals were placed at the check-writing stand of checkout counters. The maker also produced paper coupons and handled credit and also debit map transactions. Big Bear to plan to usage the mechanism to promote its personal label goods and in-store departments, and promote the major brands which were currently hooked into the network.

In 1993, big Bear Stores, together with P&C Food sectors of Syracuse were an unified into penn Traffic’s various other retail division, RDQ. The move was make in order to provide the parental flexibility; at the time, loans can be made for a solitary entity rather of for three separate ones and legal and audit functions to be consolidated. Big Bear ongoing its slow but steady growth strategy and also maintained the strong local standing heading into the late 1990s.

Further Reading

“The Anatomy the a successful LBO,” steady Grocer, July 1987, p. 24.

Bennett, Stephen, “Big be afflicted with Sharpens that Claws,” progressive Grocer, December 1992, pp. 34–43.

“Big Bear, P&C combined into pen Traffic,” Supermarket News, April 26, 1993.

“Big be affected by each other to go Public because that the second Time in that 49-Year History,” wall surface Street Journal, June 16, 1983.

Nannery, Matt, “Big Bear set to broaden Vision value Chainwide,” Supermarket News, march 22, 1993.

Schaeffer, Larry, “There’s many of Spunk in the Old huge Bear,” gradual Grocer, may 1986, pp. 199–200.

Tanner, Ronald, “Columbus Discovers the good Big Bear,” progressive Grocer, October 1981, pp. 111–15.

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Wartzman, Rick, “Big be afflicted with Rejects Penn traffic Bid, Adopts civil liberties Plan,” wall surface Street Journal, December 27, 1988.