Big retailers launch specialty stores

What's happening in retailing expansion hardly signals the demise of today's all-product department store or the mile-aisled supermarket. But it points out how alert merchants intend to reach specific kinds of customers.

Three large chains -- Safeway, Sears, Roebuck, and Standard Brands Paint Company -- have announced plans to open one-category specialty stores this year, separate from their existing units.

The Oakland, Calif.-based Safeway Stores is forming a joint venture with Knapp Communications Corporation, publishers of Bon Appetit magazine, to open gourmet food stores using the magazine's name and expertise in international cuisine. The first unit will open in early spring across the Bay from San Francisco in Tiburon.

In addition to offering a full-service deli and complete seafood and meat departments, the new stores will stock many high-quality lines slanted toward ''cultural'' cooking trends. Other features of the Bon Appetit outlets will include a florist shop and sections of unusual nonfood merchandise associated with cooking. Some of the cooking needs will be specialty goods typical of articles advertised among the recipe pages of Bon Appetit: signature ''linens,'' small appliance aids and accessories, chef's apparel, and food-serving accouterments.

Aimed at the growing art-and-framing market, Standard Brands Paint Company -- the do-it-yourself supermart chain -- has a prototype art supplies store planned for April opening in Los Angeles. Artist supplies and equipment -- acrylic and oil paints, frames, chemical additives, easels, brushes, instruction books, canvas, gesso, and Masonite -- accounted for more than 10 percent of Standard Brands Paint Company's ''fixer up'' sales in 1981, according to company executives. This specialty line was selected for expanded sales emphasis because demand for art supplies for both the amateur and the professional has been increasing.

Eventually, the art stores will also carry drafting supplies and equipment to appeal to architects, graphic designers, and commercial artists.

Since last year, Sears, Roebuck has been testing the free-standing computer-store idea with two outlets in Dallas, two in Chicago, and one in Boston. According to a recent company announcement, the pilot experiment in selling brand-name computerized office systems from its 3,000-square-foot Business Systems Centers has been so successful that Sears will open more such stores this year. The plan is to open 45 stores by the end of 1982 in such cities as Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, and Atlanta. Products carried will include calculators, microtranscribers, instrument plotters, copiers, word processors, and typewriters -- mostly well-known name brands.

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