BJ's Wholesale Club to complete the circuitBJ's Wholesale...

CONSUMER MARKETPLACE

June 22, 1993|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

BJ's Wholesale Club to complete the circuit

BJ's Wholesale Club has set June 27 as the date it will complete its encirclement of Baltimore.

On that day, the division of Waban Inc. of Natick, Mass., will hold a grand opening at two warehouses in Columbia and Owings Mills, bringing to four the number of BJ's clubs in the metropolitan area. The others are in White Marsh and Glen Burnie.

("Grand opening" doesn't necessarily mean that's the first day the clubs will open to customers. There will be a "soft" opening Saturday for commercial customers, current BJ's members and anyone willing to fork over $25 for a membership.)

The two openings will vault BJ's into the No. 1 spot among Baltimore-area warehouse clubs, based on the number of stores.

Still, some questions remain about how long BJ's will remain BJ's.

Last week's announcement of a merger between the 94-store Price Club of San Diego and 101-store Costco Wholesale of Kirkland, Wash., increases the pressure for consolidation in the wholesale club business.

Even with Sunday's openings, BJ's will be a distant fourth in the industry, with 46 stores -- several light-years behind No. 1 Sam's Club, the 277-store division of Wal-Mart Stores of Bentonville, Ark.

BJ's isn't commenting on any possible acquisition, but spokeswoman Susan Grieb notes that the company is still the largest and longest-entrenched player in the Northeast.

The two new stores, located on Music Fair Road in Owings Mills and Snowden River Parkway in Columbia, have no membership restrictions. The clubs will include a tire service center, a travel club, a mail-order prescription drug service, an optical department and a Burger King minirestaurant.

Lee's to spread out, in a pint-size way

Lee's Ice Cream Parlor, a Baltimore-based chain that has been scooping away since 1979, will make its first venture into the retail grocery market next month.

Scott Garfield, vice president and son of founder Lee Garfield, said Lee's will sell pint packages of six flavors through the Royal Farms convenience store chain and some independent groceries.

"There's just been such demand for our retail pint, we decided we might as well distribute through the stores," said Scott Garfield.

The Lee's chain comprises four company-owned and six franchised ice cream parlors from Maryland through North Carolina, with annual sales of about $1 million, Mr. Garfield says. The retail grocery business could eventually eclipse that figure, he adds.

Lee's will kick off its marketing effort with a radio campaign created by Noble Steed Associates Inc. July 2.

The flavors Lee's will introduce are Amaretto fudge swirl, double chocolate truffle, pralines and cream, strawberry cheesecake, white pistachio-pistachio and, of course, vanilla.

In addition to the 60-store Royal Farms chain, Lee's will distribute through Eddie's of Roland Park, County Market and The Food Place.

The company also hopes to sell ice cream through some of the major regional grocery chains.

It hasn't all been easy, though.

"Giant turned us down flat," said Mr. Garfield.

Eisner wins 2 trophies for radio advertisements

Baltimore's advertising industry is still enjoying its Radio Days.

Eisner & Associates brought home two of only 12 trophies handed out for radio advertising last week in the International Broadcasting Awards ceremony sponsored by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society.

Eisner won awards for a single spot and a full campaign for Fair Lanes Inc., the Hunt Valley-based bowling center chain. Copywriters Kim Gallagher, Craig Wiese and Hugh Carson wrote the spots under the direction of Byron Tucker.

Baltimore agencies were strongly represented in the radio category of the competition. WJZ-TV, Noble Steed Associates and Trahan Burden & Charles were also finalists.

Meanwhile, W. B. Doner & Co.'s Andy Ellis was honored as AdWeek's radio copywriter of the year for the Southeast region. Mr. Ellis, a senior vice president and group copywriter at Doner, was cited for his work for such clients as O Wear Clothing, Norwalk Furniture, Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems, The Baltimore Zoo and Clarke Ice Cream.

Levitz files with SEC for public stock offering

Levitz Furniture Inc., of "You'll Love it at Levitz" fame, is going public with an initial stock offering worth an estimated $221 million.

The Boca Raton, Fla.-based furniture chain filed registration papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission this month to sell 13 million shares of stock for an estimated midrange price of $17.

The company said the proceeds would be used to reduce debt and redeem preferred stock -- and with good reason. Levitz's heavy interest payments and preferred stock dividends have wiped out its operating profit in each of the last four years. Last year the company lost $3.7 million, or $1.39 a share, on sales of $922.4 million.

Levitz stock is essentially a bet on an economic recovery in a highly cyclical industry. The company's same-store sales dropped during the recession before rebounding slightly late last year.

The 118-store chain, the largest specialty furniture retailer in the United States, operates stores in Glen Burnie and Baltimore.

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