Boscov's may open stores here Pennsylvania chain succeeds by selling the old-fashioned way

'Very customer-friendly'

It has discussed area sites, but is yet to commit to any

February 22, 1997|By Liz Bowie and Kevin L. McQuaid | Liz Bowie and Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

A successful old-time Pennsylvania department store chain is poised to jump into the Baltimore metropolitan area with at least one and perhaps several stores.

Boscov's Department Stores Inc., the nation's largest privately owned department store chain with 28 stores in five states, has discussed entering various shopping centers ringing Interstate 695, according to several sources.

But as of yet, Boscov's has not yet committed to any location. The chain also declined to comment on its level of interest in the Baltimore market.

If Boscov's does locate here, its likely targets include the vacant Woodward & Lothrop store in the Rouse Co.'s White Marsh Mall; a Glen Burnie store that Sears, Roebuck & Co. is leaving as part of a relocation to Marley Station Mall; and the Hunt Valley Mall, the Equitable Life Insurance Co.-owned shopping hub that is half-empty but being repositioned, real estate sources said.

Boscov's also may target the JMB Co.'s Security Square Mall in Woodlawn.

Boscov's, which would compete in the Baltimore area with the May Department Stores Co.'s Hecht's unit and J. C. Penney Co., currently has just a single store in Maryland, in Salisbury.

Run by a savvy, hands-on merchant named Albert Boscov, the stores bearing the family name carry name-brand merchandise and would likely challenge the established Hecht's and J. C. Penney for consumer dollars, industry analysts say.

"In a shopping center with Hecht's, J. C. Penney and Boscov's, I would bet on Boscov's," said Rene Daniel, president of the Daniel Group, a Baltimore retail consultant.

"He is an old-time merchant. He runs a good business. He makes the other retailers scared."

While most department store chains have scaled back the types merchandise they sell, Boscov's remains an old-fashioned, full-service department store where customers can buy lingerie, mops or a needle and thread.

"From what I've seen, Boscov's is a quality merchant that sells brand-name goods at price points lower than most competing department stores," said F. Patrick Hughes, president and chief executive officer of Mid-Atlantic Realty Trust, a Linthicum-based company that owns the Harford Mall

The Reading, Pa.-based Boscov's, an 86-year-old chain with sales of roughly $1 billion annually, has been considering expanding into this area for several years, but now appears closer than ever to making its Baltimore entrance, real estate sources said this week.

"They have thoroughly looked at the Baltimore market," said one commercial real estate executive, who asked not to be identified but whose firm had spoken with the company recently.

Boscov's would not say whether it will be coming to the Baltimore area.

"We are constantly looking at a lot of markets," said Mary Ann Chelius, a company spokeswoman. "We are a rapidly growing company."

As evidence of its growth, Boscov's has signed deals to occupy two Rouse malls -- Plymouth Meeting and Exton Square -- in Pennsylvania in the past two years.

Boscov's also is one of three anchor tenants in the Columbia-based real estate concern's Echelon Mall in Voorhees, "We've been very pleased with Boscov's results," said Jerome D. Smalley, a Rouse senior vice president and its director of commercial and office development.

"They attract a good, quality customer and they're a good operator. They're very customer-friendly."

Smalley declined to discuss any negotiations with Boscov's regarding White Marsh.

If Boscov's follows its standard procedure, the retailer will attempt to line up advertising with local newspapers before signing leases.

"They will always make a deal with the media first," Daniel said.

Hilary Schneider, vice president of sales at The Sun, would not comment on whether Boscov's and the newspaper were in discussions.

Pub Date: 2/22/97

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