Ga. chain to open Columbia store

July 22, 1993|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Uptons, an Atlanta-based clothing chain, says it will open a store in Columbia next year as part of its first foray into the lucrative Baltimore-Washington retail market.

The privately held chain, which operates 28 junior department stores in the Southeast, says it will open the Columbia store at a 61,000-square-foot site in Dobbin Center, at the corner of Route 175 and Dobbin Road.

The shopping center, now anchored by Hechinger and Kmart, is considered a key retail location in the Columbia area.

The shopping area is frequented by Columbia residents, who have among the highest average household incomes -- $61,100 annually -- in the nation, and is close to Interstate 95 and four office-industrial parks that employ approximately 50,000 people.

In its strategy to enter the Baltimore-Washington market, Uptons also plans to open a store in Fairfax County, Va., an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C.

"The openings in Columbia and Fairfax mark the beginning of our expansion into this market. We're aggressively looking at other sites in the Washington-Baltimore area," David Layne, president and chief executive officer of Uptons, said in a press release.

He did not return phone calls from a reporter for additional information about the company's interest in the regional market.

Cindi Leonard, a spokeswoman for Uptons, said she could not comment on the company's plans for the Columbia store, such as how many employees Uptons would hire.

The Columbia store will probably open next spring 1994, she said.

At the Columbia site, Uptons will take over space now owned and occupied by Hechinger.

Ed Ely, vice president of commercial development at the Rouse Co., Columbia's developer, said Uptons would "complement the mix" of retail stores in Dobbin Center, which includes a Crown Books store and Hermann's sporting goods.

Mr. Ely expects Uptons to generate more buyers who come to the shopping center to "cross shop" between stores.

Hechinger customers are considered "destination" customers, in that they come specifically to make purchases at that store and then leave.

Company representatives at Uptons and Hechinger would not say whether Uptons would lease or buy the Hechinger site.

Hechinger plans to close the Dobbin Center store this fall when it opens a Home Project Center, a 100,000-square-foot "super store" in the nearby Snowden River Shopping Center.

Major renovations will be made to the site to accommodate Uptons.

Uptons carries clothing for men, women and children, as well as lingerie and jewelry.

Ms. Leonard, the Uptons representative, said the chain's clothing is "moderately priced," although she declined to give specific examples.

The chain, which operates 12 of its 28 stores in the Atlanta area, seeks to attract value-hungry buyers, Ms. Leonard said.

The chain's marketing strategy involves heavy promotion of sale items to attract buyers.

Competition in the clothing market in the Columbia area includes Hecht's and Woodward & Lothrop department stores in the Columbia Mall, as well as numerous specialty stores, such as The Gap, Britches and Victoria's Secret, also in the mall.

Kmart, which has stores in the Dobbin Center and Ellicott City, carries value-priced clothing and jewelry.

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