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    Hechinger Co.
    list rank

    From the April 28, 1997 Washington Post


    '96 (in $ 000s) % Change From '95
    Revenue 2,199,067 (2.4)
    Net Income (25,076) --
    Rank Last Year: 10

    Description:
    Hechinger is a do-it-yourself home improvement chain with 117 stores in 18 states in the Northeast, South and Midwest. Its core market is the mid-Atlantic, with 27 stores in the Washington area.

    Business Resume:
    • Contact Info --
      1801 McCormick Dr
      Largo, Md. 20774
      301-341-1000
    • Main Business --
      Retailing--home improvement
    • Founded --
      1911
    • Chairperson --
      John W. Hechinger Jr. (CEO)
    • President --
      Kenneth J. Cort
    • Employees --
      16,000
    • D.C.-Area Employees --
      4,600
    Developments:
    Hechinger had its third difficult year in a row in 1996, with lower sales and another multimillion-dollar loss, even as other home improvement chains reported significant improvements last year. Though Hechinger executives had been blaming the economy and the slow housing market for some of its troubles in 1994 and 1995, the company now says its problems stem from the onslaught of competition. Home Depot and Lowe's have continued a steady march into Hechinger's core markets, so now 80 percent of Hechinger's stores compete with one or both of these bigger, better-financed rivals. To weather the storm and wring costs out of its business, Hechinger announced in 1995 that it would consolidate its two operating divisions, Home Quarters Stores and Hechinger Stores. While that merger saved the company millions of dollars last year, it also proved disruptive and distracting. The company consolidated many of its suppliers, but the elimination of some vendors did not always coincide with the expansion of others, and that frequently left Hechinger with empty shelves and dissatisfied customers. Hechinger officials said the transition is almost completed and stores should be fully stocked by summer. Some of the savings the company gained through consolidation have been spent adding employees in stores to address the persistent criticism from customers that the chain's sales help is insufficient.

    In some markets—though not in Washington—the company has rolled out customer service guarantees, offering discounts if an item isn't in stock or a shopper has to wait in line too long.

    But analysts say that perhaps more telling of Hechinger's efforts to change is the opening last month of a store in Albany, N.Y., called Better Spaces, a home-design store roughly the same size as Hechinger's biggest locations. If the store is successful, Hechinger officials said, the company may bring it to other markets. Analysts say the test of a new store concept and a new name is evidence that Hechinger is desperately searching for a niche in which it can compete effectively with its rivals.

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post

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