In the wake of the success it has had since its arrival to the Puerto Rico market, retailer New Jersey-based Burlington is moving forward with expansion plans for 2012, with the opening of at least two new stores, high-ranking company officials confirmed Wednesday during a meeting with members of the local media.
The retailer, which made its debut in 2008, will open its seventh store tomorrow in Manatí, and is already nailing down locations in Arecibo and the Mayagüez Mall. Also on the radar are possible openings in San Juan, Humacao and Cayey, where officials are gauging customer demand.
“Customers here understand value and appreciate it, and they appreciate fashion,” said Todd Weyhrich, chief financial officer of the low-cost retail chain. “As we look to continue to expand in additional markets here, we have to make sure we have the right products.”
“We’ve outperformed what we thought we were going to do here,” he said, without disclosing growth figures. He did say, however, that several of the local stores have already positioned themselves among the entire chain’s top sellers.
“Customers here have embraced us and we’re looking to grow and are actively looking for the right approach to do that and have a connection with them,” he said, noting this is Burlington’s first foray outside the U.S. mainland.
The new 50,000 square-foot store in Manatí is generating 165 new jobs, pushing the total number of full- and part-time positions Burlington has created on the island to 1,000. Weyhrich said working together with the Labor Department’s unemployment office and regional consortiums Burlington has filled 40 percent of those jobs.
On average, Burlington invests between $2 million and $3 million per store, depending upon the individual size of the “box,” which includes new builds as well as refurbishing existing locations, as was the case with the first store it opened at a former Pueblo store on 65th Avenue.
In establishing itself in Puerto Rico, Burlington has kept its ear to the ground to make sure its product offering fits local tastes. The retailer has also worked very closely with local suppliers, adding a familiar assortment of Puerto Rican goods to its mix, Walter Rivera, market manager for Burlington.
“Most recently we started working with local food vendors, so we’re currently adding new flavor to our company in Puerto Rico,” he said, naming Cielito Rosado, Pique Mi Madre, Dulzura Borincana, Tomás Díaz and Fernando Pujals as the local companies that have begin supplying an assortment of products.
“We’ve also started doing more local business with national companies, by managing our business with them locally,” Rivera noted.
Meanwhile, Angel Guzmán, senior divisional vice president, said this program began a few weeks ago, so the holiday season will be a good test to determine its acceptance. Furthermore, how the products perform may be their key to stateside markets, as Burlington could consider exporting local goods to key Hispanic communities.
“Our buyers are in conversations about the possibility of carrying some of those products in U.S. Hispanic markets, such as south Florida, California and Texas,” Guzmán said.
Another initiative it may soon “export” is the “Charity Day” event conceived for the opening of the Bayamón store in October, which it will repeat again today. The event allows a group of nonprofit organizations to raise funds by selling “VIP” entrances to the store two days before it officially opens. The Santa Rosa mall pre-opening event benefited 20 organizations that raised a combined $23,000.
That initiative, said Weyhrich, has potential for adoption across U.S. stores.