Albert Boscov regaining control of the department store chain last December 2008 didn’t like what he saw. The 79-year-old is known to be ”hands on” for routinely checking on his stores, chatting with customers and employees and adjusting advertising signs. He said he wants to change Boscov’s shopping and working culture. ”I want it to be fun again to work here,” said Boscov, whose father started the Reading area company in 1911. ”That means having festivals again and things like that.”

In 2006, the company purchased the Strawbridge’s store at the Lehigh Valley Mall and prided itself on bucking the national trend of department store consolidation. Boscov’s was undergoing an aggressive expansion that stretched the chain to 9,500 employees and 49 stores, with a plan to add five more stores each year.

Analysts have said Boscov’s, a mid-level retailer, is struggling with other retailers to find their place as the market gets fragmented and they compete with big discount box stores such as Wal-Mart. Competing retailers such as Macy’s and The Bon-Ton, which have stores in the Lehigh Valley, have reported decreased sales in recent months, including a lackluster holiday shopping season that was led by uncharacteristic price reductions to stimulate sales. Time will tell if Mr. Boscov can revive the store chain. Good luck to this Lehigh Valley retail pioneer. Hope they do not meet the same end as Hess Brothers the best known of the valley retail pioneer giants.

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