Filene's chain sizes up Baltimore area Discounter looks for store sites

February 01, 1992|By Michael Dresser

Filene's Basement Corp., a Boston-born retail "legend" that specializes in undercutting department store prices for top-quality apparel, is searching for suitable locations in the Baltimore area, company President Jim Anathan said yesterday.

"If the real estate is there, we'll be there," Mr. Anathan said in a telephone interview. "It's totally dependent on the availability." He said there was no timetable for such an expansion but added that "there certainly is a serious interest" in Baltimore.

Mr. Anathan said that if the Wellesley, Mass.-based company does decide to open stores in the Baltimore area, it would want to come into the market with "not less than three in the first wave." He explained that the company needs at least that many stores to get sufficient benefits from its regional advertising and distribution expenditures.

Filene's Basement now operates 37 stores, most of them from Maine to Philadelphia.

In recent years, Filene's Basement has moved aggressively into the Chicago area, and it said yesterday that it would open three or four stores in Minneapolis-St. Paul. But Mr. Anathan indicated yesterday that the company also hopes to push south as well.

Filene's Basement got its start as the discount arm of Filene's department store in Boston in 1908. It was acquired by a management-led group from Federated Department Stores in 1988 and went public last April.

The company, whose stock has risen from its offering price of $14.50 to close at $34.375 yesterday, had $400.8 million in sales in the fiscal year that ended January 1991.

The company's success has come as it has positioned itself between traditional department stores and discount chains.

"They carry what I call Saks Fifth [Avenue] material at a 20 to 60 percent discount," said Paul Bienstock, an analyst with Moran Asset Management in Greenwich, Conn. The Boston store "is like a legend," he said.

Alan J. Fink, manager of the discount-oriented Westview Mall, said Filene's has been interested in Baltimore for several years and has made previous feelers here.

"They are like everybody's dream," he said. "They are so good at what they do."

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