- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2001

Retail & Hospitality

EZiba's three-month stint in the Washington area has led to more customers, more business and an expansion plan into other markets around the country.
The Massachusetts-based Internet and catalog retailer which sells exotic handcrafted items from around the world partnered up with several different companies to display its merchandise. Until now the 2-year-old company relied on its Web site (www.eziba.com) and catalog to drive business.
EZiba sponsored 10 events since April from a Smithsonian craft show to a tea tasting at Teaism in Northwest.
"It's a way for a company that doesn't have an actual store to connect one-on-one with its customers," says Chief Executive Bill Miller. "It was a combination of relationship marketing and an outreach to find customers that fit our profile."
EZiba's 50,000 customers are well-educated, well-traveled, have higher incomes and live in metropolitan areas, the company says. Washington is the company's third largest market representing about 5 percent of its overall customer base. New York and Los Angeles are its two largest markets.
The goal of the events are to double the number of customers EZiba has in each of its markets and the company is on track to do that in Washington, Mr. Miller says.
Now EZiba is moving on to New York and eventually will hit Boston and San Francisco with sponsored events showcasing its merchandise. The company will be back in Washington in the fall to sponsor more events in the area, Mr. Miller says.

A guide to the pump

FreeTrip.com, an Internet-based service that helps motorists map their trips, has added a new feature to help eliminate the pains of high gas prices.
FreeTrip.com lists the average price of gas along the country's highways. Motorists can use these prices as a guide to help fill up where they see the best local price.
If, for example, FreeTrip's itinerary shows the average gas price is $1.65 in a particular area and a gas station is advertising $1.98 then the motorist knows to move on to another pump that will likely be less expensive.
"If you have an idea of how much it costs [in that area], you'll know where not to go," says Ann Shack, president of the Alexandria-based Internet service.
The gas feature, which started this month, is free until the end of June. Ms. Shack then plans to add it to a list of services that club members can have access to for a $29.95 annual membership fee.
Ms. Shack is confident at least 1 percent of the 1.5 million to 2 million site visitors will sign up for the club.

Tommy's coming

Tommy Hilfiger is coming to the Washington area.
The hip sportswear designer will open a store in Fair Oaks shopping center in October. The 6,500-square-foot store is the first in the area for the clothier, which has a presence in department stores around the area but no individual stores.
Tommy Hilfiger, which currently has 18 locations, is also opening a store at Baltimore's Harborplace in November.

Baked Goods

Panera Bread, a bakery-cafe chain based in Missouri, is expanding in the Washington area with four new locations expected to open by the end of the year.
Panera Bread, ranging in size from 4,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet, already exists in Glen Allen, Alexandria, Fairfax, Vienna and Reston.
The company's newest cafe will open early July at a second location in Alexandria. Three other locations will open in Falls Church, Baileys Crossroads and Manassas, Va., by the end of the year.
Panera Bread currently has 285 bakery-cafes in 29 states and has a goal of opening more than 500 in the next few years.

Open for business

AMC Hoffman 22 Theatres, which has about 4,150 stadium-style seats, opened June 15 in Alexandria. The 22-screen mega-plex is 97,000 square feet.
Maurice Villency, an upscale contemporary furniture retailer based in New York, is opening its first store outside the New York/New Jersey/ Connecticut tri-state area this week in Bethesda. The 20,263-square-foot store is located at the intersection of Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues.
Fresh Fields/Whole Foods Market, represented by real estate firm H&R; Retail, has signed a 36,000-square-foot lease for a location in Gaithersburg. The store is expected to open in late September.
Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other week.

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