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CEO eyes more NH locations as Manchester BJ's Wholesale Club opens

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 07. 2018 12:27PM
Maria Zapata puts a shine on glass refrigerator doors while helping to prepare the new BJ Wholesale Club at the former site of Sam's Club in Manchester on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Matt Quinn stocks produce while helping to prepare the new BJ’s Wholesale Club, which opens today in the building that formerly housed Sam’s Club on John E. Devine Drive in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — BJ’s Wholesale Club opens its new Manchester store today, but it may not be done shopping for new Granite State locations.

“We’re thrilled about our business in New Hampshire, so it’s certainly the place we would love to expand, and we’re working on a variety of projects to do just that,” CEO Chris Baldwin said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Seabrook Town Manager William Manzi III said a property developer has “indicated openly (that) BJ’s is a potential tenant” for a Lafayette Road location.

Baldwin, however, said he had nothing to announce regarding Seabrook, saying, “We’re excited about our possibilities in New Hampshire.”

In Manchester, BJ’s moved into the former Sam’s Club location on John E. Devine Drive that closed last summer. Tuesday was the last day for BJ’s Hooksett store, which is being replaced by the new Manchester location.

On Tuesday, dozens of workers were stocking the new store with fresh meats and produce, posting price signs and polishing refrigerated coolers. About 130 people will work there.

It’s a place where you can examine appliances, get new tires installed or pick up a bunch of bananas — the latter ranking in the top 10 for store sales.

“About 85 percent of our business is what you can buy in a grocery store,” Baldwin said.

By year’s end, customers will be able to order their deli meats by phone app before they arrive.

The store will host a grand opening on March 17.

Ben Martignetti wires television sets while helping to prepare the new BJ Wholesale Club at the former site of Sam's Club in Manchester on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

A 2017 survey of best customer experience ranked Hannaford (82 percent) slightly ahead of BJ’s (81 percent) and Sam’s Club (80 percent), according to the Temkin Group, a customer experience research, consulting, and training firm in Waban, Mass.

A Hannaford supermarket sits across the street from the Manchester BJ’s store.

Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said the grocery industry has undergone much change since Arthur Hannaford opened up on Portland, Maine’s, waterfront in 1883. The company is now part of the Ahold Delhaize group, which is based in the Netherlands.

“There continues to be a lot of change, and that’s typically good for the customer,” Blom said.

He cited his company’s Hannaford To Go service, in which customers can order groceries online and pick them up without leaving their cars. Hannaford operates 36 supermarkets in New Hampshire.

Baldwin said BJ’s also is benefitting from changing buying habits.

“As the retail business transforms in the United States, we certainly benefit from people going to the mall less,” Baldwin said. “Our apparel business has been vibrant and growing.”

Headquartered in Westborough, Mass., BJ’s Wholesale Club operates 215 stores and 133 BJ’s Gas locations in 16 states.

Walmart announced in January that it was closing 63 Sam’s Club locations, including one in Seabrook. Baldwin said he sees that as an opportunity for BJ’s to attract new customers and add stores.

Jackie Sinclair sets up the ladies' clothing section Ben at the new BJ Wholesale Club at the former site of Sam's Club in Manchester on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

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