Hechinger stockholders applaud improved sales

June 15, 1994|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Hechinger Co.'s sales have improved this month after a disappointing May, when bad weather kept fertilizer and lawn mower buyers away, company President and Chief Executive John W. Hechinger Jr. told investors yesterday.

"Business in June seems strong," Mr. Hechinger said in remarks at the company's annual shareholders' meeting. "Right now the trend is much stronger than May."

Mr. Hechinger declined to disclose revenue figures for June so far. But his remarks are expected to reassure shareholders who were worried about a 3 percent, $21.1 million sales drop last month in stores open for at least a year.

About 120 attended the meeting in downtown Washington.

It was perhaps one of the easier shareholders meetings Mr. Hechinger and his colleagues have had; Hechinger's "A" shares have increased more than 60 percent in value since Jan. 1. The mood was upbeat and several times the stock owners applauded Mr. Hechinger's recital of ledger results.

The home-center superstore company has improved operations in both its Hechinger Stores division, whose outlets are concentrated in the Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia markets, and its Home Quarters Warehouse division, Mr. Hechinger told the group.

The Hechinger outlets have cut costs, lowered prices, increased sales per store and maintained market share, Mr. Hechinger said. Despite increasing competition from Home Depot and other aggressive home-center chains, between fall 1993 and a year earlier Hechinger boosted market share in Baltimore from 23 percent to 26 percent and in Philadelphia from 12 percent to 16 percent, he said.

In Washington, the chain's share fell from 27 percent to 23 percent. But "our strategy of protecting market share and of increasing our sales per store is working," in the Hechinger unit, Mr. Hechinger said.

Home Quarters, which recently overtook the Hechinger unit in sales volume, is the company's growth vehicle and is adding stores across the East -- except in the Hechinger Stores markets.

The Chesapeake, Va., prototype for Home Quarters' new, bigger stores is on track to take in $50 million in its first year of operation, Mr. Hechinger said.

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