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Jos. A. Bank may add 5 stores in Baltimore-Washington area; Clothier formally unveils plan to boost profits


Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. formally unveiled a strategic plan yesterday to increase profits by adding 75 to 100 new stores by 2003, including as many as five in the Baltimore-Washington area.

The Hampstead-based men's apparel chain has 110 existing locations, 36 of which have opened over the past three years. The new stores are expected to increase annual sales by $90 million by the final year of the plan.

The retailer has also formulated a "defined vision" for its new locations. A recent analysis of its existing stores found that those in high-end specialty retail centers -- such as its store in Annapolis Harbor Center-- significantly outperform stores that are in other types of strip centers or are freestanding, the company said.

Chief Executive Officer and President Robert N. Wildrick said the company is "negotiating and investigating" about 50 locations that fit the upscale center profile.

It plans to open at least six stores this year, with the first couple opening in the Chicago area in the fall, he said. At least one of the four or five Baltimore-Washington area stores will open next year, though Wildrick declined to reveal locations.

Up to 18 stores are slated to open nationwide next year.

"It's a doable, conservative plan that was developed by many levels of management who believe in it totally," Wildrick said. "We needed it because in retailing today you must grow in order to survive."

Wildrick, who joined the company in November, noted that Bank is in a "very good financial position." On Wednesday, the company bought back 896,400 shares -- nearly 13 percent of its outstanding stock -- at $3.50 a share.

The company also announced a new Internet strategy yesterday. InterWorld Corp., CommercialWare Inc. and Arthur Anderson LLP will team to develop and implement Bank's new "online superstore." The Internet site, featuring real-time inventory availability, will launch in mid-summer.

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