REAL ESTATE

Swim school concept launches national expansion

BY Al Urbanski

Only lately have in-line shopping center tenants come to the realization that the traffic drawn by fitness operations merit the parking spaces they take up. Now here comes a fitness concept whose staffers alone constitute a decent customer base for fellow tenants.

Forty swim instructors and three managers conduct 2,000 lessons a week at each of the four locations that Big Blue Swim School operates in Illinois. Former member of the U.S. national swim team Chris DeJong founded Big Blue with old friend John Lonergan in a mission to teach kids how to swim his way.

Special features of Big Blue schools are water that’s always 91-degrees and shallow throughout the pool, comfortable parent viewing areas equipped with WiFi, and toys and activities for waiting siblings. Swimmers get individual changing rooms.

With financial backing from Level 5 partners, DeJong and Lonergan have embarked on a plan to expand to Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Denver with 17 new locations by 2021. Their ultimate goal is 300 to 500 Big Blue Swim Schools nationwide.

“We’re about more than what a typical retailer can offer. We offer families easy access to a vitally important life skill which can’t be outsourced or purchased through the mail,” DeJong said.

Big Blue’s Illinois locations are in Wilmette, Niles, Buffalo Grove, and Hoffman Estates.

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Golf retailer increasing store count

BY Marianne Wilson

A retailer that specializes in premium golf club-fitting services is looking to increase its store footprint.

Club Champion said that it plans to open a minimum of 30 stores during the next two years. The Highland Park, Ill.-based retailer, which sells such brands as Callaway, TaylorMade and PING, is about to open its 38th store.

In addition to fittings and selling golf clubs, Club Champion also offers complete club building, customization, and repair services, including re-shafting, re-gripping, wedge grinding, swing weighting, loft and lie adjustments, face angle adjustments, and custom stamping and painting services.

Club Champion targets locations with a heavy saturation of golfers. The typical store footprint is approximately 3,000-sq.-ft., and includes fitting bays equipped with TrackMan launch monitors, SAM PuttLab, build shop and an extensive equipment wall. The store features over 35,000 hittable head and shaft combinations.

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Ross to open 100 stores in 2018

BY Marianne Wilson

Ross Stores is not backing down from its aggressive expansion.

The off-price giant opened 23 Ross Dress for Less stores and six dd’s Discounts stores across 14 different states in February and March. The new locations are part of the retailer’s plans to add approximately 100 new stores – 75 Ross and 25 dd’s Discounts locations – during fiscal 2018.

“With these recent openings, we continued our growth in both new and existing markets,” said Jim Fassio, president and chief development officer. “Our newest market for Ross Dress for Less is Nebraska, and for dd’s Discounts, we entered Illinois with two new stores.”

The recent openings give the company a total of 1,651 stores across 38 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam. The total includes 1,432 Ross Dress for Less stores and 219 dd’s Discounts

“As we look out over the long-term, we remain confident that Ross can grow to 2,000 locations and dd’s Discounts can become a chain of 500 stores,” said Fassio.

For its recently completed fiscal year, Ross reported net earnings of $1.4 billion, up $1.1 billion last year. Sales grew 10% to $14.1 billion. Same-store sales were up 4%.

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