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    BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc.

    25 Research Dr.Phone: 508-651-7400
    WestboroughMAFax: 508-651-6114
    01581
    United StatesMap Map This Company
    http://www.bjs.comHoover's coverage by Alexandra Biesada

    History

    In 1984, with Price Club (now part of Costco) thriving and Wal-Mart Stores' SAM'S CLUB beginning to dot the horizon, Zayre Corp. opened BJ's Wholesale Club, New England's first warehouse club. Zayre, a Massachusetts-based chain of discount department stores, placed the first store in Medford, Massachusetts, and named the operation after top executive Mervin Weich's wife, Barbara Jane. In return for an annual membership fee, customers could buy a mix of goods priced at around 8%-10% above what they cost BJ's.

    Zayre's bought the California-based HomeClub chain of home improvement warehouses in 1986 and combined HomeClub with BJ's to form Zayre's warehouse division. Weich was replaced by John Levy the next year.

    By mid-1987 BJ's had 15 stores and more than half a billion dollars in annual sales. Over the next few years, the chain expanded into 11 states in the Northeast and Midwest, including stores in the Chicago area. Despite the chain's rapid growth -- or because of it -- BJ's failed to post profits.

    A debt-burdened Zayre began shifting its focus to its moderate-priced chains (including T.J. Maxx and Hit or Miss) during the late 1980s. In 1989 it spun off its warehouse division to shareholders and renamed it Waban (after a nearby Massachusetts town). Zayre was renamed TJX Companies.

    Waban cracked the $1 billion sales mark in 1990. During the early 1990s the company moved into the midwestern US, but its stores failed to thrive. In 1991 it closed one of its four Chicago stores and in 1992 turned the other three into HomeBase stores.

    Also during those years, BJ's added fresh meats, bakery items, optical departments, and travel agents to its stores. In 1993 Herbert Zarkin, BJ's president, replaced Levy as CEO. That year BJ's had 52 stores and 2.6 million members; its sales reached $2 billion. A new inventory scanning system implemented by the company helped cut costs.

    Once again, however, strong sales didn't add up to big profits. In 1993 BJ's per-store profits were far below those of its competitors, primarily due to intense competition and a regional recession. Two years later it became the first warehouse club to accept MasterCard and issued its own store-brand version of that card. BJ's added nine stores in 1995, 10 the next year, and four in 1997.

    Meanwhile, Waban was struggling with HomeBase, which was still failing to show a profit due to restructuring charges. In 1997 Waban spun off BJ's Wholesale Club -- its star performer -- to keep it from being undervalued; Waban then changed its name to HomeBase. Also in 1997 John Nugent was named BJ's CEO.

    BJ's began adding gas stations at several of its northeastern stores in 1998. Also that year it introduced its private-label products under the Executive Choice and Berkley & Jensen names. BJ's entered North Carolina in 1999.

    In September 2002 CEO Nugent resigned and was replaced by Michael Wedge, formerly an EVP of the company. In November two clubs in Columbus, Ohio, and a third in Florida shut down. BJ's entered the Atlanta market in 2002 with four clubs there.

    BJ's opened 10 new clubs during 2003 and another seven outlets in 2004.

    In June 2005 BJ's agreed to settle charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission alleging the company failed to protect information on thousands of its customers. Without admitting guilt the company agreed to implement new security procedures and to periodic audits of those procedures. In 2005 the warehouse club operator opened eight new outlets, all in existing markets.

    BJ's opened about a dozen new clubs in 2006. That year BJ's replaced its distribution center in Franklin, Massachusetts with a new 618,000-sq.-ft. facility in Uxbridge. The Uxbridge warehouse serves 65 clubs throughout Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island, and has the capacity to support up to 86 clubs as the company expands. In November Mike Wedge resigned as CEO after four years in that position. He was succeeded, on an interim basis, by chairman Herb Zarkin. (Zarkin was permanently reappointed to the job in March 2007.) In February 2007 BJ's closed its two Pro Foods Restaurant Supply stores and discontinued in-store pharmacy sales.

    Zarkin stepped down as CEO in early 2009, but retained the chairman's title. President and COO Laura Sen succeeded Zarkin as chief executive of BJ'S.

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