Filene's seeking to cut costs

The Baltimore Sun

Retailer Filene's Basement is trying to renegotiate leases and maintenance fees with the landlords of its Towson and Hunt Valley stores as it tries to cut costs amid a weak retail environment.

The retailer has been discounting everything in stock at the two stores and not taking returns on new purchases, sometimes a sign that a shop is preparing to close.

But President Mark Shulman said that Woburn, Mass.-based Filene's, which moved to the Baltimore area in 2004 and has four stores in the region, is not at the point of closing.

"I think sometimes it's a precursor to that," he said. "That is not what we're contemplating right now."

He said he was unable to negotiate new deals with the landlords in recent weeks because of the holiday season. But he said he hoped something could be worked out in the next month.

Representatives for Towson Place Shopping Center and for Greenberg Gibbons Commercial, which handles leasing for Hunt Valley Town Centre, did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment.

Shulman declined to say whether the stores would be able to remain open without new lease terms.

"I think we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said.

Filene's also has stores in Columbia and at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Boston merchant Edward A. Filene founded Filene's Basement in 1908 as a way to sell excess merchandise from his father's store, Filene's. It became widely known as a place where people could buy high-priced clothes inexpensively. The company's annual bridal sale, during which women rush the store for steeply discounted gowns, is one of its hallmark events.

The retail chain's flagship store in downtown Boston has been closed for two years because of a redevelopment project.

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