AUTHOR: SINGER

McRae's kicks off expanded mall store

By Stephen Singer

Daily Journal

McRae's Department Store was relying on a mix of magic and an old-fashioned sales technique - up to 25 percent off - to draw shoppers on the first day of business Wednesday at its expanded store in the Mall at Barnes Crossing in Tupelo.

Robert Day, who bills himself as "Mississippi's leading magician," entertained groups of shoppers and gawkers at the Men's and Home Store.

Day of Pearl insisted he did not have any cards up his sleeve. "It's strictly sleight of hand," he said.

But McRae's had an ace up the sleeves of Ralph Lauren, Perry Ellis, Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger and other top-of-the line shirts and other garment brand names: 25 percent and 15 percent off and $6,000 in merchandise prizes.

The magic worked. By early evening, sales were 70 percent of what McRae's expected, manager Larry Armstrong said.

Earlier this year, McRae's moved into retail space abandoned by Kmart and refurbished the 50,000-square-foot store.

It pulled men's clothing and home furnishings from its separate mall store, increasing display space for menswear from 15,000 square feet to 25,000, Armstrong said.

The move boosts display space for items for the home, such as kitchen and bath items, bedding and other merchandise, from 13,000 square feet to 24,000.

"I think we've added better lines. We've invested more money," Armstrong said.

The additional space also will expand the original mall store's retail space for women's clothing and accessories, from 6,000 square feet to 13,000, Armstrong said.

Customers found shopping easier.

"It's not nearly as crowded as in the other store," Baldwyn resident Brenda Bullock said in the men's store.

During her visits to the mall every week or 10 days she usually shops for her husband and two sons. "It was worth the trip over today," she said.

Dede Hatten, a management trainee at McRae's at Jackson, said she and other store representatives had an easy time giving away, rather than selling, items: They distributed 1,500 free mugs.

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