HEAD Sportswear to reopen discount outlet at Columbia headquarters

June 09, 1994|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Sun Staff Writer

HEAD Sportswear, the ski, tennis and golf equipment and apparel company, is re-opening its discount outlet at its Columbia headquarters, but purchases will be limited to Howard County residents.

HEAD will require customers to prove their county residency with a driver's license or other documentation -- a sharp difference from most warehouse or discount outlets which seek to draw customers from a regional market.

Company executives decided to limit sales to Howard residents as part of an effort to become widely identified as a Howard County-based company and to avoid direct competition with its retailers in the Baltimore-Washington area.

George M. Curtis, vice president for operations at HEAD and the man in charge of getting the outlet stocked and ready for Saturday's opening, said, "The outlet is just one of the ways HEAD can become more involved in the community. Until now, we really haven't been as involved as we could be."

"We want people to eventually think that when they cross into Howard County they are coming into HEAD country," said Jack Dougherty, corporate executive officer for HEAD.

Mr. Curtis and Mr. Dougherty said the outlet will help reduce the amount of overstocks sold to national clothing discounters, such as T.J. Max and Marshall's, and improve the price margin on overstocks. A company-operated outlet gives HEAD the ability to protect the brand's upscale image and to control prices on discounted items, said Mr. Dougherty.

"Even though customers associate HEAD as an upscale high-quality brand, once items show up on discounters' racks there's an assumption that something is wrong with an item or that the brand has slipped. We wanted to avoid that."

The original outlet, which was opened from the late 1970s to early 1980s, was closed because of space considerations. The new store, which will be open Wednesday to Friday evenings and all day Saturday, will be stocked with HEAD clothing and shoes, but not with any of its ski, tennis or golf equipment.

The outlet will allow the company to move unsold apparel and shoes out of HEAD's Columbia warehouse and Jessup distribution plant, the two executives said.

Discounts on items in the 2,700 square-foot store located at HEAD's international headquarters on Red Branch Road in Columbia will range 20 percent to 60 percent, said Mr. Curtis.

For example, women's tennis warm-up suits, which retail for about $189, will be marked down at the outlet for about $89; men's golf shirts, which retail for about $75, will be sold at the outlet for about $38; and Exploration hiking boots, which retail for about $54, will be marked down at the outlet to $34.

HEAD plans to stir up customer and employee interest in the outlet by featuring a visit by rap music star Hammer on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. HEAD plans to keep interest up in the store through weekly promotions, such as two-for-one sales, and visits from celebrities, such as former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, whom HEAD has signed to market a new line of HEAD cross-training shoes and apparel.

As part of a new effort to strengthen local name recognition, the company plans to "aggressively attack" the local market by sponsoring school and recreational athletic teams, as well as tennis, golf and ski clubs, he said.

"When you go out to Oregon, you have no doubt Nike is located there. All of the school teams are wearing Nike shoes and clothing. There's no reason we shouldn't be doing that right here," said Mr. Dougherty. "Howard County is our home and it's a great place to be. We want people to know we're very much part of the community."

Outlet purchases also are limited to Howard residents so the store doesn't compete directly with HEAD retailers in the Baltimore-Washington region, such as Nordstrom's Department stores and Herman's, the sporting goods chain.

The company's prime retailer in the county is Princeton Sports, a family-run specialty sporting goods company which has a store in Columbia.

HEAD items carried by Princeton include tennis rackets, skis, clothing, and HEAD's line of ski bindings, marketed under the name Tyrolia.

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