BRADENTON -- Walk into the Bealls Outlet at the Westgate Shopping Center on Manatee Avenue West and you might just do a double take.
The outlet has such a different look and feel, you might think you walked into a new store.
It's all part of a makeover Bealls is giving to its outlets. The Westgate location is one of the first to get such an extensive makeover.
Regular Bealls Outlet shopper Peggy Batten was pleased the first time she saw the completed renovation.
"As soon as you walk in the door you notice the change," she said. "It's just so open and spacious."
Chrisi Falco, store manager at the Westgate Bealls Outlet, said the change is so dramatic that she has seen customers walk into the store and then stop and step outside to check the sign on the store front.
The logo has been modernized. The colors have changed -- the red hue is different, and the orange has been de-emphasized.
The lighting and the floors have changed, so the store also looks much brighter. They have also added windows and bigger glass doors to the front of the store to take advantage of Florida's natural lighting.
The store boasts much wider aisles and a re-configured checkout that seems faster and friendlier.
While the in-store design was done exclusively in-house, the company hired the Dalton Agency to assist in defining the brand profile and logo, said Bill Webster, director of public and government affairs for Bealls Inc.
Dave Alves, president of the outlet division, who has a retail background in Canada and Europe, including a stint with TJX Companies, the parent to TJ Maxx and Home Good stores, envisioned the changes.
Alves was hired last October after Conrad Szymanski retired.
"This is part of what he wanted," Webster said.
The outlet in the Westgate shopping center was the original Bealls Outlet and included corporate offices and a post office above and behind the retail space.
Those offices are gone now, allowing the company to raise the ceiling above the Homes section of the outlet -- another reason the store feels more spacious.
While the decor is different, Bealls didn't stopthere: The company hasalso updated its merchandise.
The store has upgraded its brands to the big names "everyone wants," Falco said.
Those brands include Nautica, Tommy Bahama and Tommy Hilfiger, she said.
The juniors department is also growing.
"Instead of being at the tail end of a trend, we're right on target," Falco said.
She said she has had customers tell her that walking into her store feels like walking into a Target.
"I take that as a great compliment," Falco said. "We're an outlet that feels like a big box retailer.
"Everyone likes to shop an outlet, but no one wants to feel like they are shopping an outlet."