Family-owned Allen’s Superstore announced Monday it will scale back its non-grocery offerings and focus on repositioning the grocery side of the store in order to remain viable and competitive with retail chain stores.
The restructuring will phase out the basement floor and part of the nonfood sections of the store, which include clothing, sporting goods and camera supplies, said Kristin Allen, store president. The fate of the store’s popular Husker gear section remains undecided.
“Allen’s has been part of Hastings for 60 years, and it is our plan to continue to be part of Hastings,” Allen said in a telephone interview from her office in New York City, where she works as an investment banker. “We think that by downsizing the nonfood size of the store we can reposition the store and be more competitive.
“Our game plan is to focus on the grocery side, Wine Cellar, supermarket, pharmacy, health and beauty, cosmetics, seasonal, and greeting cards and gifts. The grocery store is known for low-cost, high-quality merchandise, so it’s our plan to reposition the non-food side to focus on the same price points. With that in mind, we’re going to be shifting our greeting card supplier, adding merchandise from more generics in health and beauty, and just all around making the non-food side as competitive and low cost while keeping the quality as high as the grocery side of the store.”
Allen is not entirely sure how many employees will be let go in the downsizing, but expressed regret that the long-discussed strategy will leave anyone unemployed.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we make this change,” she said. “We want to keep a business in Hastings that’s healthy and able to support the people we are able to employ and hope the people of Hastings continue to support local business.
“It’s hard to compete with national retail stores. We think that this move is going to help us succeed so that our family-owned local business will continue to be here in the years to come. Losing employees is without a doubt the worst thing about this. We care about our employees, so we do this with a heavy heart.”
Some non-food products, such as school supplies and other essential staple products, will be absorbed on the grocery side of the store, she said.
“Some departments will just be shrunk down,” she said. “Some housewares and a number of other departments will be situated in the grocery department. They just won’t be as large.
“We have to figure it out. We want to shrink to one side of the building with a separating wall, but it’s tempting to kind of slip over a little bit on the other side.”
Discontinued items will be liquidated in a sale slated to begin July 5 and continue for an estimated 8-10 weeks, Allen said. Regular store specials, including the annual July Jamboree, will continue as usual.
“We very much hope we’re supported by the local community,” she said. “We want to be part of Hastings and need Hastings shoppers to make that possible. Hopefully they will come out to the liquidation sale, but as importantly the Jamboree sale and all shopping after that.”
Allen’s was introduced to Hastings by the M.H. Allen family of Grand Island as Allen’s Self-Service Drug at 731 W. Second St. in 1958. In 1964, the store was moved to its current location at 1115 W. Second St. by Bob and Georgene Allen. A 5,000-square foot downtown store was replaced by a new store in 1964 that later doubled in size to 110,000 square feet on two levels. Growth included the addition of costly produce fixture upgrades in 1995 and a pharmacy carport added in 1996.
Bob Allen died in 2010 at age 84. The store is owned by Georgene and the couple’s three children, Kristin, Bryan and Erik.