- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. is changing its size. The Hampstead, Md.-based men's retailer, which has 145 stores, is growing at a steady pace and hopes to have as many as 500 stores, said Chief Executive Officer Robert N. Wildrick in an interview last week.
And that's not all. Mr. Wildrick says his corporation will eventually be the umbrella for a multitude of specialty-store divisions.
"We will not allow this company, under my leadership, to stop growing," he said.
But Mr. Wildrick is quick to point out that while his objective is to expand the company as quickly as possible, he will do so in a "prudent way" and only if it is financially feasible.
"We don't want to overleverage our company," he said.
The company is on the right track. While most retailers are having a tough time increasing sales and profits in this weak economy, Jos. A. Bank is having a record year.
"We've been fortunate," said Mr. Wildrick. "Our brand is becoming more recognized."
For the first half of fiscal year 2002, ended Aug. 3, the clothing company's net sales increased 15.1 percent to $107.6 million, compared with $93.5 million in the first half of last year. Profits rose 235 percent to $2.7 million, compared with $797,000 during the same period in 2001.
"They have a good niche," said Mark Millman, president of the Millman Search Group, a retail consulting firm in Baltimore. "Their price points are realistic, not overpriced. They have good value and good quality."
Jos. A. Bank, which has 15 stores in the Washington and Baltimore areas, added 21 new stores last year and plans to add 25 this year. Ten already have opened, and the remainder, including one in Tysons Galleria, are expected to open in the next 90 days. Jos. A. Bank is on pace to open 30 stores next year. Company research shows the retailer can operate as many as 500 stores under that brand, Mr. Wildrick said.
Jos. A. Bank's successful catalog business also helps identify key markets where stores should be located, Mr. Millman said.
Mr. Wildrick hopes to have a prototype of a new concept ready in 18 months and to open the first store of that kind in about 36 months, he said.
The new concept will be a different store altogether, Mr. Wildrick said. It won't be a department within existing Jos. A. Bank stores, like a previous failed attempt at a women's line.
He compares his corporation's strategy to Limited Brands, the umbrella company that owns stores such as Victoria's Secret, the Limited, Express, Lerner New York and Bath & Body Works.
"We hope to keep growing for years to come," Mr. Wildrick said.

In other news
People shopping for back-to-school goodies expect to spend an average of $483 this year a 5.4 percent jump over the average of $458 last year, according to a survey by the International Mass Retail Association.
The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina is finally opening for business. The official grand opening set for Aug. 29 comes after years of negotiations, delays and cost overruns. The megaresort, located in Cambridge, Md., is expected to provide a big boost to the area economy. It has 400 rooms, 35,000 square feet of meeting space, an 18-hole golf course, an 18,000-square-foot spa and a marina.
Hampton Inn & Suites is expected to open at Arundel Mills in Hanover, Md., on Sept. 19. The 131-room hotel will be operated by Skye Hospitality. Skye also plans to operate a Residence Inn by Marriott next to Arundel Mills when the hotel opens next year.
Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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