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Cleveland “Ambiance” chain wants to put three boutiques in Columbus area by end of 2011

from www.dispatch.com – A Cleveland-based company that sells lingerie and adult novelties plans to expand into Columbus.

Ambiance, which describes itself as “The Store for Lovers,” anticipates opening three stores in central Ohio within the next year and a half, with the first opening before the end of the year.

“We want to get one open in time for Christmas shopping,” said Jennifer Downey, president and co-owner of Ambiance.

The company describes itself as “an upscale lingerie store and a romantic gift boutique” offering a variety of adult products, including lingerie, books and DVDs.

Locations have not been identified, Downey said.

“We like to be in places where people can drive in and jump in and jump out,” she said. “Our target is couples in committed relationships, especially the women in those relationships who buy these products. And if you want to reach women, you want to be near the mall.”

Because of the personal nature of the merchandise, Ambiance puts a premium on training. New employees go through a four- to six-week course that culminates in a 22-page exam. Smart Business Magazine has given Ambiance its “World Class Customer Service Award” four years in a row because of the training program, Downey said.

Ambiance opened its first store in 1981 and operates seven retail stores in northeastern Ohio.

“We see a great opportunity in Columbus,” Downey said. “We’ve wanted to open stores here for years, and the conditions are optimal to pursue an expansion.”

The privately held company had a good year last year despite the recession, “and we’re having a very good year so far this year,” Downey said. “We’ve exceeded our expectations. With the recession, people are staying home – therefore, they need to have a little excitement at home.”

Ambiance and its growth represents part of a growing trend toward lifestyle merchandising, which includes “just about any hobby or sport,” said Chris Boring, a retail consultant with Columbus-based Boulevard Strategies.

“A lot of consumers are getting to the point where they have enough stuff, and they’re looking more to having experiences. Retailers targeting lifestyle activities have done well in recent years.”

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