Ross Dress for Less opens new store at South Mall

New columnist takes over as big-chain discount retailer makes splash on Lehigh Street.

When Tyrone Richardson said this column generates a lot of feedback, he wasn't kidding.

I learned that firsthand Monday, my first day on the job as the new Retail Watch writer.

I was born in the Lehigh Valley. I've watched the Lehigh Valley grow. But until I had to truly focus on all the retail activity, inquiries and rumors to check out in this great big Valley, I had no idea how big it actually has grown.

That's when panic set in. "How could one set of eyes possibly see or know everything going on in every community?" I asked myself.

Truth is, I can't. That's where you come in. I hope you'll be my eyes as well. Whether you are a new retailer or restaurateur, a manager of shopping center or a consumer who sees signs about a new store coming to town or an old one closing down, I hope you'll call or email me and share your news. I'll do my best to check it out and keep everyone informed.

Now, onto this week's big news.

Finally, a new big-chain store has opened in the long-vacant space at South Mall.

On Friday, Ross Dress for Less opened its doors at the shopping center located partially in Allentown and partially in Salisbury Township.

It moved into approximately 25,000 square feet of retail space that was vacated by two previous businesses — Home & Gifts, an upscale gift retailer, which moved out several years ago, and Gold's Gym, which moved to a new location on Lehigh Street next to Bottom Dollar Food last spring.

For those of us who live south of Allentown — in Emmaus and the surrounding townships — having a major retailer in that empty space is long overdue. Although South Mall has two anchor department stores, Bon-Ton and Stein Mart, having yet another store gives us choices. And who doesn't love choices?

Its target consumer: bargain hunters.

"Ross appeals to a wide range of shoppers who value bargains on first-quality, in-season, name-brand and designer apparel, accessories, footwear and home merchandise for the entire family at everyday savings of 20-60 percent," said Ross' corporate spokesperson, Michael Hartshorn.

The location was selected, he added, because it will serve targeted customers who aren't shopping at Lehigh Valley Ross stores.

The Lehigh Street Ross is the fourth to open in the region in recent years. The retailer already has stores in Whitehall Township, Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and in Quakertown, where a location opened earlier this year.

In addition to Bon-Ton and Stein Mart, Ross joins other major chains in South Mall, including GNC, Staples, Petco, Foot Locker, Victoria's Secret, Piercing Pagoda, Kay Jewelers and Sleepy's.

These retailers, said mall general manager Brian Molchany, are thrilled to have a store of Ross' caliber move in and draw business to the mall.

More retail news:

South Mall manager Molchany, who also is general manager of Palmer Park Mall, said construction has started on a Spencer's, which he expects will open in the Palmer Township mall sometime before Christmas. Spencer's, a big-chain gift shop that sells novelty items and adult apparel, also has locations in the Lehigh Valley and Phillipsburg malls.

In more chain-store news, GNC is coming soon to the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, said Promenade spokeswoman Melissa DiLazaro. The nutritional-supplement retailer will be at Suite 110 in the lifestyle center's patio food court area, next to Pita Pit in the Center Valley shopping center. It will be one of numerous GNC locations in malls and shopping centers throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Several other new seasonal and permanent shops are in the works, DiLazaro added.

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