Men's Wearhouse to open stores in Baltimore, D.C. Discount clothier from West Coast plans about 20 outlets

Threat to competition?

'We'll be ready,' says Jos. A. Bank

November 10, 1995|By Alec Matthew Klein | Alec Matthew Klein,SUN STAFF

In a major mid-Atlantic thrust, Men's Wearhouse Inc. yesterday confirmed plans to enter the Baltimore-Washington market with about 20 stores, offering a sartorial alternative to consumers but posing a threat to competitors.

The Fremont, Calif., company, among the nation's largest discount retailers of men's tailored clothing, expects to open about eight stores next spring -- two in Baltimore and six in Washington.

Within 18 months, the chain plans about four stores in Baltimore and 16 in Washington.

"Watch out," said Stephanie Giroux, a PaineWebber Inc. vice president in New York who follows the company.

The retailer's edge, she said, is that it's a well-managed company and technologically sophisticated with effective television advertising.

"I think Men's Wearhouse's prospects are better than they've ever been," Ms. Giroux said.

"The reason for that, speaking from a competitive point of view, is that we've seen the acceleration and consolidation among specialty and department store players in the menswear industry."

Men's Wearhouse, represented locally by retail brokers John Meyer and Adam Miller of KLNB Inc., has yet to identify specific sites in the region, but it typically places its 5,000-square-foot stores in strip shopping centers or in "power centers," a larger class of shopping centers with warehouse-size stores.

The arrival of Men's Wearhouse will mean added competition for the likes of Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., a 90-year-old Baltimore retailer with a loyal following.

Men's Wearhouse "is a formidable competitor," said Timothy F. Finley, Bank's chairman and chief executive officer.

"But we have a little different niche, a different customer base. Our product is more attuned to the Eastern market. And we've been here a long time."

Nevertheless, Mr. Finley added, "We'll be ready for him," referring to his counterpart at Men's Wearhouse, Chairman and Chief Executive George Zimmer.

Men's Wearhouse also could eat into the business of its most visible competitor, New Jersey-based Today's Man Inc., which has an established presence in Washington, Philadelphia and elsewhere along the Northeast corridor.

The Baltimore-Washington region is only one site of expansion for Men's Wearhouse, which operates 266 stores in 28 states and plans to open about 50 new stores this year.

Founded in 1973, the company recently entered four new markets -- Madison, Wis.; Charleston, S.C.; and Toledo and Dayton, Ohio. Over the next few months, the chain plans to enter Fort Collins, Colo.; South Bend, Ind.; and Greenville, S.C. The retailer also is looking at Boston and St. Louis.

While other apparel companies have been battered by sluggish sales in recent months, Men's Wearhouse has seen its numbers rise: For the third quarter ended Oct. 28, the company reported a sales increase of 26.7 percent to $92.9 million, compared with sales of $73.3 million over the same period last year, while sales in stores open at least a year rose 8.2 percent.

"They are a financially strong company with quality merchandise, low prices and a focus on customer service," said Mr. Meyer of KLNB. "They should capture an incremental share of the menswear market."

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