Marshalls to open Columbia store, joining host of new retailers in area Company targets working women HOWARD COUNTY BUSINESS


Marshalls Inc., the national off-price retailer of apparel and house goods, says it will open a store in Columbia early next month.

The Andover, Mass., retailer, which has 12 stores in Maryland, joins a growing parade of national discounters that either have opened stores or plan to do so in the Columbia-Ellicott City area. Recent competitors moving into the area include wholesalers such as BJ's Wholesale Club, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Sams Club and Upton's, a discount apparel chain.

The 36,000-square-foot Marshalls will open the week of Oct. 3 in Columbia's Snowden Square shopping center, a new retail site developed by the Rouse Company.

Hechinger's Home Project Center and BJ's have already opened in the center.

To entice customers to the store, it plans a contest offering shopping spree vouchers of $500, $250, and $100.

The store will employ between 60 and 75 people.

Like other retail chains that have moved into the county recently, Marshalls says the demographics of the area -- particularly its above-average incomes and preponderance of families -- were key factors in its decision to open a store in the area.

Marshalls also plans to open a store in the Southern Maryland community of Waldorf in November.

"Our typical customer is a working woman who is married with children," said Hanna Hosom, a spokeswoman for Marshalls, which posted revenues of $2.6 billion in 1992.

"She is very busy and time conscious. She also does most of the shopping for herself and her family and is very value conscious. The demographics of the Columbia area fit that target we're looking for," Ms. Hosom said.

The chain, which is owned by the retail conglomerate Melville Corporation of Rye, N.Y., carries brand name men's, women's and children's clothing, lingerie, shoes, and a small inventory of household goods, jewelry and luggage.

Marshalls, which has 433 stores in 39 states, claims prices at 20 percent to 60 percent below department and specialty stores.

The chain has a practice of tagging merchandise with the Marshalls price and a comparison price drawn from competitors.

"We have buyers who check on those prices regularly to ensure accuracy," said Ms. Hosom.

The retailer hopes to gain an edge on local competitors by "offering brand name merchandise at value prices," she said.

Marshalls characterizes itself as an "off-price" retailer.

Such operations typically purchase other retailers' canceled orders and manufacturers' over-runs, irregulars and end-of-season merchandise at substantial discounts.

While Ms. Hosom declined to specify name brands which the stores typically carry, a visit to the Marshalls Towson store found this sampling of merchandise:

Polo by Ralph Lauren brand women's jeans priced at $34.99; Perry Ellis brand women's blouses priced at $29.99; Calvin Klein brand wool blazers for men priced at $249; John Weitz and Arrow men's cotton and flannel shirts priced at $14.99; child-size Reebok and Nike athletic shoes priced at $27.99; and Springmaid brand cotton queen-size sheets priced at $19.99.

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