ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Carr Gottstein Foods is bringing large video selections to small, remote Alaskan communities.
The retailer is putting 3,500-tape departments into its 20,000-to 35,000-square-foot Eagle Quality Center format stores, said Gary Schloss, vice president of general merchandise. One of these departments is in an Eagle store opened on March 16 in Unalaska, near Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, he said.
"They don't have a lot of entertainment in rural Alaska, so video is a big part of our business there," said Schloss.
Two existing stores in Kotzebue and Nome have been bought by Carr Gottstein to be run by the Eagle operation, noted Dick Hodge, general manager of the Eagle Quality Center division. These stores are about 15,000 square feet and they will get video by the end of April, he said.
One more Eagle Quality Center may open by the end of the year, said Hodge. The company plans to open two a year for the next four or five years, he added.
The departments carry the same variety of entertainment software and other electronics products as the company's larger combination stores, but in a smaller space, said Schloss. The 13 combination stores, called Carrs Quality Centers, are an average of 48,000 square feet, with some units as large as 72,000 square feet. Most are located in the vicinity of Anchorage.
The products carried include video sell-through, games for rent, audio music, televisions, VCRs, game decks and small electronics, like radios. With the Nome and Kotzebue stores, Carr Gottstein now has seven combos in the Eagle division. The retailer is rolling out the format as part of its plan to become a bigger player in Alaska and eventually in the lower 48 states. All but one Eagle store will have video rental
departments, said Schloss.
Smaller video specialty retailers exist in these towns, but "we are one of the first retailers to go in with a large video selection. It is being accepted very well," said Schloss.
"We used to have people from those communities write to our stores in Anchorage. They would send in their money to rent a video for a week. Others would come to town, rent a handful of videos, and then mail them back. Now we will be able to serve them closer to where they live," he said.
"Video is unique in Alaska because of the lifestyles of most people," said Hodge. "Our typical customer watches a lot of television and they like to be able to choose what they watch. We are able to come in with a very good selection," he said.
"So in rural Alaska, we find that video is a really excellent draw," he said.
Carr Gottstein offers rental terms of three to five days or longer, depending on what the consumers want, said Schloss. "We try to be as flexible as we can, as long as it makes sense for us and the customer," he said.
Rental rates are the same in all stores -- $2 for new releases and 99 cents for catalog, said Schloss.
Sales are good for all nonfood lines in the new Eagle stores, he said. "In some of those remote areas, you don't have all the competition that we have in Anchorage, and we can do even more business in general merchandise. You can't find all those products out there. Going into those communities has drawn greater attention to the general merchandise categories," said Schloss.
"One of our philosophies is to make our stores the center of town. They are at the center of everything that everybody does," said Hodge.
"In rural Alaska, we are not just supermarkets, but a supermarket plus a general store," he said.
"It's where they come to visit. It's where they come to buy their groceries. It's where they come to buy their clothing. It's where they come to buy their health and beauty care. "By adding one more dynamic, and making it where they come to get their videos, it's just one more trip that they have to come back to our store," said Hodge.
The company bought the Nome and Kotzebue stores in mid-March and plans to continue operating them under their Hansons name "for a couple of years," he said. Ultimately, the two stores will be replaced by bigger Eagle units, he added.
After making some changes, the company plans grand openings in about 60 days. "There are a lot of things that we want to do. We want to lower the pricing and we want to reset the stores. We want to add video rental and some other departments as well," said Hodges.