BJ's warehouse clubs streak past area rivalsBJ's Wholesale...


December 05, 1992|By Michael Dresser

BJ's warehouse clubs streak past area rivals

BJ's Wholesale Club has become the first chain to effectively ring the Baltimore area with warehouse clubs.

With its recent disclosure that it will open a warehouse on the old Music Fair property in Owings Mills, BJ's has streaked past rivals Price Club, Pace and Sam's Club in the race for real estate.

The Natick, Mass.-based chain, a division of Waban Inc., hopes to open the 115,000-square-foot warehouse in the spring of 1993, said Susan Grieb, BJ's public relations manager.

The Owings Mills site, northwest of Baltimore, is the fourth announced by BJ's in the area. The chain entered the market last March with a store in White Marsh, to the northeast of the city. Last month it covered the southern part of the market with a store in Pasadena, and it plans to open a store next year in Columbia, to the southwest.

Nordstrom headed for better times?

Is the worst over for Nordstrom? The folks at Prudential Securities certainly think so.

The Seattle-based department store chain, which has been hit hard by the recession in California, might be bouncing back, say analysts Wayne Hood and Dina Pliotis.

The two increased their full-year earnings estimate from $1.67 a share to $1.60 and upgraded the stock from a "hold" to a "buy" after the company posted better-than-expected third-quarter earnings.

The Prudential team said Nordstrom has brought its inventory levels under control and improved its merchandise mix. In addition, they said in a research report that the California market, which accounts for about 60 percent of Nordstrom's sales, appears to have hit bottom and stabilized.

By all accounts, one market that has been far from a drag on Nordstrom's earnings is Baltimore, where the company's new Towson Town Center store has been doing heavy business since its Sept. 11 opening.

Holiday season gets off to a fast start

Based on anecdotal evidence, the 1992 holiday shopping season is off to a bang-up start. And now we have some of the first statistical indicators of just how generous Santa is going to be to the region's retailers.

Nevins & Associates, an Owings Mills-based company that operates concierge services at malls in the Baltimore-Washington area, said this week that during the first week of the shopping season, it wrapped 6,050 gifts, compared with under 4,900 last year -- an increase of more than 23 percent.

The increase is even greater when measured in wrapping paper, said company President David H. Nevins. This year, the concierge service said it used 9,900 yards of wrapping paper, compared with 6,860 yards last year -- about a 44 percent gain.

According to Mr. Nevins, that indicates gifts are larger this year. He added that boxes smaller than those used for shirts -- generally used for inexpensive knick-knacks -- have decreased by 40 percent.

The company also reported a 32 percent rise in the purchase of gift certificates.

The results are based on sales from Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving, through early Thursday at five malls: Westview Mall in Baltimore; Tysons Corner Center in Virginia; Georgetown Park in Washington; as well as one in Virginia and one near Baltimore that Mr. Nevins could not name for contractual reasons.

Obviously, these statistics have some flaws as indicators. They might say more about the growing popularity of concierge services than the retail sales climate. Still, if even half the gain is due to increased spending, there will be some happy merchants come Christmas Day.

Learningsmith store opens at Tysons

Public broadcasting has established a beachhead in the region's malls with the opening last week of WETA Learningsmith, a store that carries a vast range of products related to PBS and National Public Radio shows, in Tysons Corner Center in Virginia.

The store is the fourth in a chain of Learningsmith stores opened in partnership with public broadcasting affiliates. The first store, WGBH Learningsmith, opened in Chestnut Hill, Mass., in October 1991, and proved so popular the company opened two more Boston-area stores within six months, the company said.

Among the items sold at Learningsmith are video tapes, books, software programs and multi-lingual educational games. And, of course, there are toys.

It's a concept that will be closely watched by the folks at Maryland Public Television. "I think it's an exciting concept and it's one we might want to bring to Baltimore in the future," said Norm Silverstein, MPTV's senior vice president for administration. He noted that any decision would be up to the MPTV board.

That future is probably not too near, Mr. Silverstein noted. First, he said, Learningsmith would have to decide it wants to come to Maryland, then the store would have to swing a deal for a top mall location. But if, say, Towson Town Center or Owings Mills Town Center wanted such a store, MPTV would be interested in talking, he said.

Incidentally, parents of preschoolers should know that WETA Learningsmith carries a full selection of hard-to-find paraphernalia based on the hit "Barney and His Friends" show. (The Barney dolls were out of stock as of Thursday.)

"We have a whole section of the store actually devoted to Barney," said manager Tom Barney, who is not related to the television character, a purple dinosaur.

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