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Nan Duskin casts a wider netNan Duskin...


Nan Duskin casts a wider net

Nan Duskin is getting into middle-class values. The new owners of the haute couture clothing store at Cross Keys say the Baltimore store is going to be a lot less haute in the future.

The rich and fashionable will still be able to buy $3,000 Chanel dresses and $190 Hermes men's shirts, but they might have to rub elbows with commoners who won't pay more than $70 for a pair of shorts from Ralph Lauren.

President Marilyn Cooper, who, along with Chairman Lou Marks, bought the Nan Duskin chain last month, also promised the Baltimore store no longer will be a "stepchild" to the chain's two Philadephia boutiques. "The store will be fully stocked, which it never has been," Ms. Cooper said.

The new owners said the airy, 7,200-square-foot store, which now resembles a clothing gallery more than a retail store, will soon be "chock-full." Besides haute couture, the store will carry "bridge" lines, an industry term that Mr. Marks translated as merely "expensive."

The owners said Nan Duskin will add shoes, jewelry and lingerie, and expand its menswear offerings.

Sweet smell of success

The Cosmetics Center, a growing discount retail chain based in Savage, has a policy of beating by 10 cents any advertised price lower than its own that is brought to its attention by a customer.

Bruce Strohl, the company's chief financial officer, says this policy does more than just establish his stores' image as the low-cost merchant in the cosmetics and fragrances business. He says that beating competitors' prices by a even small amount carries much more punch that simply meeting them, as many others do.

Like many price-conscious retailers, Cosmetics Center "shops the market," but it can't keep up with everybody, Mr. Strohl says. The beat-'em-by-a-dime policy turns customers into an early-warning system of competitors' price moves, he says, helping Cosmetics Center say one step ahead.

No wonder this company is posting consistent double-digit gains in earnings and comparable-store sales.

Hechinger makes all the right moves

It's not easy to be a Junior, especially when Senior preceded you as head honcho. People always wonder if you have the right stuff or just the right dad.

But John Hechinger Jr., the youthful president and chief executive of Landover-based Hechinger Co., is dispelling doubts. After a slow start, retail analysts say, he has been making all the right moves in recent months at a company that once was viewed as a mere appetizer for Home Depot on the Atlanta-based company's way to devouring the home-improvement market.

In May, the company took a $57.3 million earnings hit to set up a "strategic reserve" and ended the irrational two-tiered pricing schedule at its old-style Hechinger stores and its year-old Home Projects Centers. In its marketing, it began to push the message that it has the lowest prices in town.

Consumers seem to be listening. Hechinger had a bang-up June and July, with comparable-stores sales growth of 12 percent each month. Last month, Moody's Investors Service confirmed Hechinger's long-term debt rating and offered praise.

"Hechinger's refocus of its core Hechinger stores and the continued rollout of its HQ [Home Quarters] warehouse stores concept recognizes the major competitive changes that are taking place in the home-center industry," Moody's said.

Suddenly, the company's low-key, easy-to-underestimate chief executive doesn't look nearly as junior as he once did.

A dime's worth of difference

Perfumania, a discount retailer of fragrances and cosmetics, has sniffed out three locations in the Baltimore area -- Mondawmin Mall, Owings Mills Town Center and White Marsh Mall.

The Miami-based retailer, only 6 years old, said it expects to have 100 stores perfuming the country by the end of 1992.

No one touches the Marlboro man

What's in a name? About $31 billion, if the name is Marlboro, according to Financial World magazine.

The publication has come up with a list of 42 top brands ranked by market value, and the Philip Morris cigarette came in No. 1, based on its sales, operating income and general strength in the world marketplace.

The runners-up?

2. Coca-Cola. . . . . $24.4 billion

3. Budweiser. . . . . $10.2 billion

4. Pepsi-Cola . . . . $9.6 billion

5. Nescafe. . . . . . $8.5 billion

6. Kellogg. . . . . . $8.4 billion

7. Winston. . . . . . $6.1 billion

8. Pampers. . . . . . $6.1 billion

9. Camel. . . . . . . $4.4 billion

10. Campbell. . . . . $3.9 billion

What, no National Boh?

Notable openings in the region

* Gardiners Furniture, a survivor in the high-casualty furniture store business, will occupy the old Shaivitz Furniture building at 6415 Baltimore National Pike in Catonsville. Gardiners will soon close its Pulaski Highway operation, which is a third the size of the new location, and will open up at the 115,000-square-foot Shaivitz site in November.

* Silver Diner, the Rockville-based chain of "old-fashioned" diners, will open a diner Sept. 8 at Towson Town Center, just in time to greet its new neighbor, Nordstrom, which throws open its doors three days later.

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