ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Fresno-based Gottschalks opened seven of its department stores around Alaska on Thursday.
Gottschalks bought the bankrupt Lamonts Apparel chain last spring. Three of the stores are in Anchorage. The others are at Wasilla, Soldotna, Fairbanks and Juneau.
Angie Blankenship, manager of one of the Anchorage stores, said shoppers should find Gottschalks more upscale than Lamonts, with a larger selection of brand merchandise and houseware products.
Some retail analysts have said Gottschalks falls somewhere between a J.C. Penney store and Nordstrom.
Alaska has seen an explosion of discount and specialty box stores over the past decade, but Gottschalks is the first department store chain to come to the state in years.
In May, it paid $20.1 million for Lamonts' 34-store chain, which had experienced cash-flow problems since 1995. Lamonts also had stores in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and Utah.
Lamonts, which opened its first Alaska store in 1975 in Anchorage, closed this summer and Gottschalks began converting the stores.
Gottschalks, however, missed the back-to-school rush -- one of the year's biggest sale seasons -- because it was still renovating and stocking stores, the company said.
It has offered all of Lamonts' Alaska employees jobs and, in some cases, beefed up its work force, said Blankenship, who also managed a Lamonts store in Anchorage before it closed.
Fred Bentelspacher, a Gottschalks spokesman, said the California retailer is committed to keeping all of its Alaska stores open, even in Anchorage where the stores are relatively close to one another.
Although Alaska had 18 percent of the Lamonts stores, it accounted for 25 percent of Lamonts revenue, he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''So we're very excited.''
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