Jos. A. Bank's same-store sales increased 1.1 percent last month

Wildrick says clothier is gaining market share

March 08, 2002|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. said yesterday that its sales rose in February even as other specialty retailers saw sharp declines as many price-conscious customers shopped at discount stores.

Same-store sales, which are sales at stores open at least a year and are a key indicator of a retailer's health, increased 1.1 percent from last year.

Total sales at the Hampstead-based men's clothing store, which has opened several stores in the last year as part of an ongoing expansion, increased 9.3 percent, from $13.2 million in February 2001 to $14.4 million last month. Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer, said Bank is outperforming other men's stores even as the entire retail industry has been faced with slumping sales.

For instance, same-store sales at Men's Warehouse dropped 7.5 percent in February.

"We seem to be taking market share from our competitors, people like Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom," Wildrick said. "We are becoming - and hopefully we're earning it - the shopping place of choice for businessman and people that like to dress well."

Wildrick said the company has sustained sales through good customer service and by improving the quality of the fabric it uses.

Banks' Internet sales are also strong, he said. Combined Internet and catalog sales were up 11.2 percent in February.

But some analysts said Bank's 1.1 percent increase in same-store sales wasn't particularly impressive. "Essentially, they did not cover themselves with glory but they didn't fall into a black hole either," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, an industry newsletter. "They are probably at the top of similar stores, but that doesn't say very much."

Shoppers have been bypassing specialty and department stores such as Bank, for Target, Kohl's and other discount stores.

Analysts said they expect shoppers to return to the stores by fall, but that spending levels won't increase to that of the 1990s.

"For a long time to come we will see consumers who are cautious in the way they spend money," Barnard said.

Wildrick said the 140-store chain will continue to expand despite the recession. Bank expects to open 18 to 30 stores this year.

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