C-Mart, the local bargain basement for designer goods, is expanding outside the Baltimore market for the first time since it went into business in the '70s.
The Harford County retailer plans to open a store Feb. 17 in Landover in Prince George's County. The 120,000-square-foot store near FedEx Field will be housed in an old Sam's Club building at the Landover Crossing shopping center.
The retailer known for its no-frills, messy stores has developed a large and loyal clientele over the years. Many of its shoppers travel to Joppa from the Washington suburbs.
"For years people from this area have been coming to the store in Baltimore asking, `When are you going to open a store down here?'" co-owner Keith Silberg said in a phone interview from the Landover store yesterday.
"Well, now we are."
Silberg said the Washington market is attractive because many of its residents have high disposable incomes.
C-Mart buys its merchandise at drastic discounts from insurance salvage lots across the country.
Every few years, the retailer makes news for a shipment of high-end goods so tantalizing that people camp out to be the first in the store.
Six years ago, shoppers lined up outside the store for a shipment of Kate Spade designer bags, steeply discounted from their normal cost of $200 to $800.
Two years ago there was the inventory it got from a high-end department store C-Mart wasn't allowed to disclose for proprietary reasons. Shoppers nabbed goods at a 50 percent discount or more from such designers as Prada, Burberry, Escada, Gucci, Hermes, Dolce & Gabbana, Juicy Couture and Chanel.
Douglas Carton, who was raised in a family of jobbers - people who buy larger amounts of goods and sell them to dealers - started C-Mart in an old 5-and-dime store but never had any interest in expanding. A new generation of the family has taken the company in a different direction, said Silberg, who is Carton's nephew.
The retailer, which operates out of a former K-Mart just off U.S. 40 in Joppa, started selling furniture in 2003. About 50 percent of the merchandise in the Landover store will be furniture, while the other half will consist of apparel, shoes and general houseware items.