Saks making pitch to entice card holdersNordstrom might be...


October 10, 1992|By Michael Dresser

Saks making pitch to entice card holders

Nordstrom might be the new kid in town, but don't underestimate Saks' appeal.

Baltimore-area holders of Saks Fifth Avenue charge cards recently found in their mailboxes a personalized letter from Lola Abt, general manager of the chain's store in Owings Mills Town Center, informing them of "exciting things taking place." The letter goes on to entice shoppers with a list of new designers whose wares Saks is carrying.

Ms. Abt says the letter is not a response to the Nordstrom challenge. "These are things that have been part of our program ongoing."

According to Ms. Abt, sales are fine at Saks, with no slackening since Nordstrom opened at Towson Town Center last month. "I think Nordstrom is much more of a competitor for Macy's than Saks Fifth Avenue," she said.

Outside observers aren't so sure. David Nevins, a Saks card holder and president of the retail consulting firm Nevins & Associates, said, "I've been getting many more mailings at home" -- catalogs, brochures, announcements of special events

at Saks.

"I see Saks becoming much more aggressive in promotional strategy," Mr. Nevins said. "In large part, I'd think it was in response to Nordstrom -- not entirely."

Nature Company does its bit to help the bay

The Nature Company, the ultra-green retailer that has been cleaning up at its flagship Harborplace store, is betting on the bay.

The chain, which sells a variety of products with a science and ecology theme, has formed a fund-raising partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and will contribute the proceeds from specific products to the organization's preservation efforts.

The first item to benefit the bay is "Water's Way: Life Along the Chesapeake." The new book was written by Tom Horton, an environmental writer and Sun columnist, and illustrated by the photographs of David Harp, formerly of The Baltimore Sun Magazine.

The tie-in program was kicked off last night during a benefit event at the Harborplace store. Proceeds from the night's sales were split between the foundation and The Nature Conservancy, The Nature Company's longtime favorite cause.

Beer, wine 'superstore'store comes to Va.

The "superstore" concept, with its huge selling floors and rock-bottom prices, has affected almost every retail business in the Baltimore-Washington area in recent years. But, so far, the liquor trade has been a holdout.

That's about to change. Total Beverage, billed as "the world's largest wine and beer store," will open Oct. 21 in Chantilly, Va., near Washington's Dulles International Airport.

Total Beverage, whose 25,000 square feet is about the size of a 1970s-style supermarket, will stock about 4,000 wines and 500 beers from around the world -- enough, the company says, "to satisfy every gourmet's craving." Distilled liquor will not be sold because Virginia restricts its sale to state-run stores. Gourmet food items will be sold.

Allen Krasner, well-known to Maryland wine consumers from his days at Wells Discount Liquors, is the main buyer for the store. According to Mr. Krasner, markups will be much smaller than at other stores -- about 20 percent on wine, compared with 40 percent to 50 percent at the typical Maryland store.

Total Beverage will open its doors with some hefty financial muscle. Bankrolling the venture is The Dart Group, which also owns majority stakes in Crown Books, Trak Auto and Shopper's Food Warehouse. Dart is controlled by the Haft family of %J Washington.

The new superstore could bring some ferment to the change-resistant Maryland retail liquor industry. For one thing, Chantilly is only about an hour's drive from Baltimore and 20 minutes from parts of Montgomery County. Maryland law restricts the amount of liquor that can be brought into the state, but enforcing that law is difficult.

Geoffrey Connor, owner of Calvert Discount Liquors in Cockeysville, isn't worried about the prospect of superstores popping up in Maryland. Wine and beer already carry low margins compared with other products and there isn't "a lot of room to play," he said.

"It's an interesting concept," he added. "I just don't think the superstore concept applies as well to this industry as it does to others."

Of course, other retailers in other industries have said the same thing -- before being steamrolled by a superstore.

New award to honor ads that never were

Any one in advertising can tell you a story about this potentially prize-winning idea that some dodo of a client was too timid or too humorless to use.

Now there's a contest for those might-have-been Addy winners.

The Light of Day Awards contest is looking for the best "unproduced, unpublished, unprinted" ad campaigns that sprang from creative minds over the last two years only to be deep-sixed, disemboweled or deleted from some bean-counter's budget.

The contest is the brainchild of Jack Cuffari, a partner in the ad firm of Cuffari & Walk in Montclair, N.J. The first year's contest will include only agencies in Maryland and other Northeastern states. But Mr. Cufari hopes to expand it nationwide next year.

The unabashedly elitist contest, open to "creative professionals" only, will accept work generated between June 1990 and June 1992. The entry deadline is Nov. 11.

For more information, write 1992 Light of Day Awards, 311 Claremont Ave., Montclair , N.J.

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