Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A History of Bradlee's: THE SCRIPT

So since it's been forever since I've posted anything of notable worth, here's a treat for you guys: A sneek peek of the script for my upcoming video about Bradlee's history. Now I'll be upfront about this: I took a lot of inspiration from Bright Sun Film's Bradlee's video, but I did my best not to copy directly from it. Also go check out his video because it's great :)

Check it out below... and if you see anything that might be incorrect or any typos, by all means PLEASE LET ME KNOW IT WOULD BE MUCH APPRECIATED!!! Thanks :)

The story of Bradlee’s discount store can be traced all the way back to the late 1950s, where three businessmen set out to start their own chain of discount stores to rival the Connecticut-based department store Caldor and Massachusetts-based Zayre, which were already immensely popular with consumers. The result was Bradlee’s, a discount type store that truly was ahead of its time. The founders settled on the name Bradlee’s after the Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, CT, where some of the earliest planning meetings were held, and in 1958, the very first Bradlee’s store opened its doors on South Frontage Road in New London, CT. The company’s launch was a massive success and before long more and more Bradlee’s stores began popping up across the Northeast.
            Bradlee’s stores initially took a different approach than most retailers of the time and moreso resembled a flea market, which each of the store’s departments being owned by independent licensees, meaning that the store’s merchandise wasn’t actually owned by the Bradlee’s company itself. Despite this core difference, however, Bradlee’s was very much so like its competitors in regard to the fact that it offered a wide array of household goods at discounted prices, it touted itself as more upscale than other competing chains; notably Kmart, Walmart, and Sears. The retailer’s widespread growth and success was enough to capture the attention of the well-established Stop and Shop Company, a grocery store chain in based out of Boston that primarily serves the New England region, and in 1961 Stop and Shop bought the Bradlee’s chain in a merger that boosted Bradlee’s yearly sales by $102 million dollars from 1961 to 1968. The merger proved to be an excellent opportunity for Bradlee’s to expand its reach with the new finances and assets Stop and Shop could bring to the company and resultantly the chain labeled itself in its ads as ‘One of the Stop and Shop companies’ to make its name more familiar with the many Stop and Shop customers across the Northeast. Alongside Bradlee’s, the Stop and Shop company consisted of Stop and Shop Supermarkets; Medi-Mart, which was a chain of pharmacies; and Perkin’s Tobacco Stores, which sold a variety of tobacco products. Now that Bradlee’s and Stop and Shop were one company, Bradlee’s would often times open stores adjacent to a Stop and Shop store which provided shoppers with general merchandise as well as food all in one place. Near many older stores, Bradlee’s would open its own branch of supermarkets to sell food and produce, aptly labeled Bradlee’s Foods. This move was made by Stop and Shop to add another name to their repertoire of subsidiaries and offer customers a supermarket other than Stop and Shop to make their grocery purchases. All across the Northeast United States Bradlee’s became everyone’s go-to place for all their shopping needs, and soon was able to establish itself as the unquestioned king of discount stores across the New England area
Throughout the latter half of the 1960s, Bradlee’s management style began to take a drastic shift now that Stop and Shop was at the helm of the company. Up to that point, most departments at Bradlee’s stores were still owned by independent franchisees rather than Bradlee’s itself. Now that Stop and Shop was in charge of the chain, the franchising program was quickly phased out so that Bradlee’s management could have more control over what goods were sold in the store and how much customers were charged for them. Although shift lead to a complete overhaul in the store’s management style, it ultimately proved to be a huge success for the company as profits continued to rise with more and more stores were opening across the country. By the turn of the decade Bradlee’s was pulling in more than 130 million dollars’ worth of sales annually whereas other notable competitors such as Walmart made a mere $25 million that same year.
Bradlee’s was seemingly on cloud nine, and in the beginning of the 1970s, the buzzing brand introduced its most memorable advertising campaign featuring the infamous Mrs. B, portrayed by actress Cynthia Harris. The aggressive advertising campaign was accompanied with the opening of many more stores as well as the addition of more departments to its stores. New renovations to the stores would expand the store’s clothing selection as well as introduce a brand new Do-It-Yourself department that offered a wide variety of hardware and other construction materials. Additionally, Bradlee’s invested a good chunk of its capital to update older stores and worn-out fixtures to help maintain Bradlee’s platinum status with consumers. Towards the end of the 1970s, Bradlee’s begun plans to experiment by opening stores with unique names and formats to offer more variety across the Bradlee’s brand. One of the most notable projects was a small subsidiary chain of Bradlee’s locations which exclusively carried clothing tailored towards juniors and misses, although these stores never made it past the initial planning phase. A more successful concept that Bradlee’s actually introduced was the Bradlee’s Family Center, which offered an extensive selection of general goods and food items under one roof, a revolutionary concept for its time.
Bradlee’s in the 1980s can be categorized by waves of massive expansion that aimed to increase the company’s presence outside of the northeastern United States. Bradlee’s first looked to take hold in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area when in 1982 the company announced it purchased 13 former Memco Store locations which would be converted into brand new Bradlee’s stores. A few years later, Bradlee’s opened shop in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area when they acquired 16 former Jefferson Ward locations which quickly reopened under the Bradlee’s name.
Despite all this expansion, the company’s sales slumped, which posed a serious threat to Bradlee’s parent company Stop and Shop. Stop and Shop had already lost a good sum of money that year and it was banking heavily on Bradlee’s to boost the company’s revenue. In response to Bradlee’s slowing sales, the Stop and Shop company replaced Bradlee’s president which saw sales increase by 300 million dollars.
Following the slight blip in the company’s profits, Bradlee’s continued expansion by acquiring a chain of stores named Two Guys, which were spread across the New Jersey area, further cementing Bradlee’s presence in the retail marketplace. By now, Bradlee’s reached all states from Maine to Virginia with steady growth unrivaled by any other chain of the time. To keep up with the stores’ demand, Bradlee’s opened up a more than 500,000 square foot distribution facility in Edison Township, New Jersey which would increase the chain’s efficiency to its newer stores south of New York. Then, in 1988, the Stop and Shop Corporation became the victim of an aggressive takeover bid from the Dart Group Corporation, which sought to purchase the Stop and Shop company alongside all of its assets. To remain an independent company, Stop and Shop needed to take evasive action which ultimately resulted in a leveraged buyout, which is the same type of business move that ultimately doomed Toys R Us. Basically, a leveraged buyout is essentially when the company purchases back its shares from shareholders so that way it doesn’t have to get outside approval before making important business decisions. So now, I’m sure you’re asking, If a leveraged buyout ran Toys R Us into the ground, it must’ve done the same for Bradlee’s
Well, actually, no. Unlike Toys R Us during its leveraged buyout back in 2005, Stop and Shop realized that to survive it would need to pay off its 1.2-billion-dollar debt that it accumulated purchasing back shares in the company. The result of the leveraged buyout was a cutback in Bradlee’s operations to recuperate for the cost of purchasing back Stop and Shop’s shares leading Bradlee’s to shudder 37 outlet stores in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland which were then sold off to the Hechinger company and Bradlee’s once again turned to focus on its operations in the Northeast United States. As the 1980s rolled into the 1990s, Bradlee’s slowly began to transform into a different type of store. Now that the Stop and Shop company had to pay off its debt from the buyout, Bradlee’s was now pushing hard for customers to come into the store by launching a new ad campaign to replace the company’s longtime spokesperson Mrs. B and offered new, more competitive prices on various goods every day in a marketing ploy similar to Walmart’s Everyday Rollback. Other aspects of the store were updated as well, such as a digital inventory management system and on-line credit verification which increased Bradlee’s customer capacity, ultimately costing Bradlee’s upwards of 30 million dollars.
The following year, big news broke when Stop and Shop announced it was planning on undoing the leveraged buyout from a few years prior. This would burden Stop and Shop with massive debt, and to make up for undoing the buyout, Stop and Shop announced in 1982 that it planned on spinning off the Bradlee’s company into its own privately held corporation. After nearly 20 years of owning the Bradlee’s chain of stores, Stop and Shop completely severed its ties with Bradlee’s which left the company scrambling to organize its own management now that it no longer had access to Stop and Shop’s various assets. On July 1, 1992, Bradlee’s officially went public on the New York Stock Exchange under callsign BRAD where the company quickly went on to sell more than 11 million shares which supported the company through a strong holiday season. Despite the promise that Bradlee’s showed following the separation from Stop and Shop, Bradlee’s success came to a screeching halt the following year when rival companies such as Walmart and Target really began targeting Bradlee’s success in the northeast. This coupled with lower-than-expected sales in the next few quarters took its toll on the now independent company. To help recover some lost sales, Bradlee’s opened up 10 new stores in the metro New York area, including a 6-story flagship store on Union Square in New York City, which enabled the now floundering company to experiment with new store formats to see what customers most desired. The new stores touted wider aisles and better lighting which Bradlee’s believed would make the stores more appealing to potential shoppers and another $30 million was invested on updating stores’ inventory management equipment as well as credit card systems to speed up the checkout process, and though at first the renovations left the company hopeful, it soon became clear that the investments did little to bring customers back to the store in a market where competing brands like Walmart and Target slowly collected more and more market share. Two years later, Bradlee’s filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection after sales continued to slump and made efforts to reorganize its corporate management. Bradlee’s also cut back on the number of stores it operated, including the chain’s original New London store which at that point had operated for almost 50 years. Ultimately, what saved Bradlee’s from full out bankruptcy was the liquidation of the Caldor chain of stores, once one of Bradlee’s most fierce competitors. Bradlee’s was now able to fill a bit of the void that Caldor left in the discount store market, which was critical as Walmart and Target were becoming ever-more prominent throughout the area in which Bradlee’s operated. Bradlee’s was able to muster up a decent enough profit from 1998 to 1999 where it looked like the company could turn itself around. Later on that same year, Bradlee’s emerged from bankruptcy protection and things looked good for the reviving company; that was until 2000 when seemingly out of nowhere Bradlee’s filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, leading to the liquidation of all of its remaining locations to repay debtors as much as it could manage. Bradlee’s chief executives blamed the closure on a quote general economic downturn which left customers with less disposable income now that oil and gas prices rose. Some also pointed to other brands such as Walmart and Target, who both would strategically open stores near Bradlee’s locations in hopes of eating away at their market share. Many industry leaders said the economy just wasn’t right to revive the Bradlee’s brand in the late 1990s, and its failure was inevitable without changes being made in how consumers budgeted their money. At the time of Bradlee’s liquidation, the chain consisted of 105 stores across 7 states, where upwards of 10,000 people lost their jobs. When Bradlee’s came off the stock exchange, its stock had dropped to a measly 22 cents per share.

So there you have it. What once was an empire of hundreds of discount stores scattered throughout almost a dozen states was brought to its knees in less than a decade after being spun off by its parent company Stop and Shop. Although there are still a few former Bradlee’s locations out and about the United States, most have since been converted into other stores or the properties have been redeveloped. Let me know what you guys thought of this script down below, and be sure to check out the other videos on Brands "R" Us' YouTube page!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Pizza Hut - New London, CT

©Ciry of New London


So truth be told, I don't really know what the trend is with Pizza Huts nationwide, but right now, there are just under twenty remaining Pizza Hut locations in the state of Connecticut including Pizza Hut Express locations within Target. I'm not sure if this massive downsizing of the Pizza Hut chain as affected other areas of the country, but I know it sure has taken its toll here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Circuit City and Six Flags

Okay here's a bit of an odd story:

A few weeks ago, I was with my buddy Matt at Six Flags New England in Agawam, MA. I didn't want to bore him at all with any of this picture-taking stuff (although there totally was an Ames at one point in Agawam) so we stayed at the park all day

Towards the end of the afternoon, however, we were walking across the park when I saw a park employee pushing a red trolley around. I took a quick peek at the handlebar on it, and sure enough it was an old Circuit City trolley!

So of course me being me, I had to talk to the employee and awkwardly ask if I could take a picture of the trolley. He was actually super nice and didn't seem to care, but I'm sure he was a bit weirded out by the whole thing, as was my friend!

Also, like I said, I wasn't exactly expecting to take a picture and I didn't have my camera or phone on me and I had to use Matt's phone to get the picture. The glare on the handlebar kind of blocks out the Circuit City logo, so in case you can't get a good view, it's the newer circle logo that reads 'Circuit City', not 'the City' as the latest rendition of the logo does. I tried to find a picture of an identical cart elsewhere online, but it seems like there aren't any other pictures of Circuit City trolleys. Let me know if you know of/have any pictures of similar carts.

Circuit City logo.svg

So what was it doing at Six Flags? I have absolutely no idea... But it also gets me wondering what other carts they may be holding hostage. So keep an eye out for carts everywhere you go because sometimes they'll turn up in the strangest of places!

I thought that was a funny story you guys might like to hear. I posted a condensed version of the story alongside the picture a few days ago on my Flickr page, so be sure to check that out if you haven't already seen it

Anyways, I'll see you guys next time!


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Underground Atlanta - Atlanta, GA



Here's something I'm quite excited to be talking about. For those of you that don't know, Underground Atlanta is this underground shopping center in South Downtown Atlanta, located beside the Five Points MARTA Station.

The area was constructed during the American Reconstruction era after the Civil War, however the site was not purposed as a shopping center until 1969

The center received an update in 1996 to accommodate heavy traffic that the Atlanta Olympics would bring. Many of the signs in the area still bear the Olympic rings, now 22 years since the city hosted the event.

The City of Atlanta sold off the property in August 2017 to a South Carolina based developer, where it plans to reconstruct the lot. While some of the above-ground properties remain in business, everything below the ground has been shuddered.

There's also an above-ground entrance which remains unused. The escalators in the entry pavilion have since been decommissioned and are no longer powered.

On the basement level of the plaza, there's not much that remains. The outside has been left abandoned and all signs have been removed, but on the inside, the mall virtually remains untouched.

Just behind the signs that reads Shops, Restaurants, and Entertainment, there are some neon lights that still remain powered.

As I mentioned earlier, the inside portion of the mall has been left virtually untouched. It's unclear if the space will be repurposed or demolished and rebuilt, but as of now not much as been done.

Something odd that you might notice in some of the pictures is that there is actually a maintenance worker on the inside cleaning the floors. Keep an eye out for him in the blue shirt.

There was one remaining vacancy on the upper floors of the mall, and that is a former Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Parlor

Additionally, despite the Underground's closure, the MARTA station across the street still retains signage directing patrons to the mall

So that's about it for the Underground Atlanta. I'll report updates should anything new come of the property, however it's future doesn't look too bright. Be sure to check back next Sunday for another article from BrandHistoryUSA

Until next time!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Monday, June 25, 2018

Ad Analysis: 1970s Stop and Shop

Alright here's something cool that I found online: the Google Newspaper Archives. So for those of you that don't know what it is, it's a repository of online newspapers that Google has archived and are available for public viewing.

One of the newspapers that they have on file is The Day which serves my area of Southeastern Connecticut.

I thought it would be a great idea to take a look back at some of the old ads that I could find and share them on here with you guys.

The first ad of notable interest that I stumbled across was this Stop and Shop ad in the Jan 2, 1970 edition of the newspaper:

The first thing that I noticed was that this particular ad used the older style shopping-cart logo ad which dates back to the Stop and Shop / Bradlee's era of stores.

What I first took a look at was the store locations at the bottom of the ad, which states there are locations at 902 Bank Street in New London, CT and at 1001 Poquonnock Road in Groton, CT

Incidentally, neither location remains a Stop and Shop at this point. The New London Stop and Shop moved down the road to its current location at 117 Boston Post Road in Waterford, CT. The former New London store has since been turned into a research laboratory for General Dynamics, who manufactures submarine vessels for the U.S. Army. The Groton store also moved in 1982, when a new Stop and Shop / Bradlee's store opened up a few miles north at 220 Route 12. After relocating, Big Y moved into the space, where it remains today.

So yeah, I don't exactly know how to end this now. Let me know what you think of these types of mini-articles, and I hope to have more coming in the near future


Sunday, June 24, 2018

Five Guys Burgers and Fries - Athens, GA

198 RT 78 BUS

Hey everyone! Today's post brings us to the college town of Athens, GA, which is home to the University of Georgia. Understandably, there are many fast-food restaurants that cater to the college-age audience, and one of these restaurants was Five Guys

Five Guys abandoned this location in October of 2017 when they moved to a location 5 miles away from their former one. This location was located at the corner of College Avenue and US Bus Route 78, and currently remains empty.

Something that I found odd about this particular Five Guys location is that it did not have any illuminated sign of any kind, but rather a small label on it's awning which read 'FIVE GUYS Burgers and Fries'. A labelscar from the lettering clearly remains today.

Some residue from the window clings remain on the door, which reads 'FIVE GUYS Burgers and Fries Open 7 Days'. The store hours were listed below.

Not too much remains on the inside of the store from the Five Guys days. Just about the only thing that really hints at it being a Five Guys are some red bar stools left over in the main dining area. A note was also taped on the window which informed customers that the location had relocated.

Much like the interior, the exterior doesn't hint too much either at the location being a Five Guys. The only real giveaway is the visible labelscar on the front awning.

Well that about wraps up this week's post on Five Guys! Check back next week for another article from my stay in Georgia

Until next time