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Bombay retailer to open 'super store'


The Bombay Co., a national-chain retailer of replica 18th- and 19th-century British-style furnishings, will open its first "super store" in Maryland tomorrow at The Mall in Columbia.

The new super store, located on the second floor at Center Court, will replace a Bombay Co. store, which opened in the mall in July 1986. That store will close today.

Eventually all of the company's 400 stores nationwide, including the other nine in Maryland, will be converted to super store status, a company spokesman said. Any new stores added to the chain -- about 30 a year are planned until 1998 -- will be designed as super stores.

The company also sells its wares on Catalog 1, a new cable shopping channel developed by Time Warner and Spiegel that hit the airwaves in four test markets on March 28.

Super stores have about 3,100 square feet of floor space for merchandise display -- twice the size of the company's original store design. The Fort Worth, Texas-based retail chain decided to move ahead with an expanded store design to allow for a greatly expanded array of merchandise, said Bob Ginter, the company's public relations manager.

The Bombay Co. super stores carry about 60 percent more merchandise than the original stores, which had on average about 1,650 feet of display space, said Mr. Ginter.

Charles Laire, manager of the Columbia store since 1988, said the super store required hiring six new employees to add to his staff of nine.

"The super store should do extremely well in this market," said Mr. Laire. "We've already heard a lot of excitement about it from our regular customers. They are looking forward to the expanded lines of merchandise."

Mr. Ginter said super stores are stocked with new merchandise in all of the company's product lines. The stores offer accent furniture, such as cocktail and occasional tables, mirrors, lamps, framed prints and other wall decor.

All of the merchandise sells for between $5 and $500. The Bombay Co.'s furniture comes packed in flat-boxes, ready for quick assembly.

In 1993, Inc. magazine voted the company founder, Canadian Robert E.M. Nourse, "entrepreneur of the year."

The concept has been a hit with shoppers too. Sales in the period 1989 to 1993 almost trebled, increasing to $231.7 million, up from $83 million.

Pretax income during the same period rose about 300 percent, from $4.5 million to about $13 million. That figure would have been much higher, but in 1993 the company allocated $13 million to begin converting existing stores nationwide to super stores.

The Columbia store is the 57th store The Bombay Co. has converted to a super store nationwide -- but the first in Maryland.

Founded in 1980, The Bombay Co. locates all of its stores in malls in areas that have a strong base of middle- and high-income households.

In that respect Howard County, where the average household income of $54,348 is the sixth highest in the nation, provides the retailer with a ripe market.

The strategy of locating exclusively in malls, is based on attracting customer foot traffic into the stores with "eye-catching fashion and value," said Mr. Ginter.

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