Allan Barnett was in charge of merchandising for Beyda shops when he got the bad news.

The chain was for sale, being unloaded by the Outlet Co. because it didn't fit in with Outlet's Phillipsborn operation.

But instead of getting out his resume, Barnett got on the phone to his old friend Bob Kass.

"We'd worked together at Lerner Shops," Barnett explained yesterday, "I've always wanted to go into business with him, so I called him up and said, hey want to buy some stores?"

That was last August. Yesterday, as Kass-Barnett Ltd, the two young merchants took ownership of the $4 million a year Beyda chain, with a dozen stores in the Washington area.

Under terms of the sale announced by Outlet in Providence, R.I., they will pay Outlet $676,000 over the next six years and assume leases on the Beyda properties.

Kass, 39, will be in charge of operations and Barnett, 38, in charge of Merchandising for Kass-Barnett, which has set up a headquarters in Rockville.

Outlet had acquired the stores when it purchased the Washington-based Phillipsborn chain in 1975. Outlet president Bruce Sundlun had said previously he intended to sell Beyda because its operation did not mesh with that of Phillipsborn.

The Phillipsborn stores are much larger than the Beyda shops, catering to a budget to lower, mid-priced customers.

Barnett said yesterday the Beyda shops "will continue to cater to the better junior, career girl market" aiming at the 21-34 year olds, who are younger and more fashion-conscious than Phillipsborn shoppers.

Beyda has four stores in Washington, six in Maryland and two in Virginia. Originally the chain had 19 units, but seven unprofitable stores were closed by Outlet before the remainder were sold to Kass-Barnett.

Sundlun said the price Outlet will receive for the stores represents a "net break-even on the cost of the stores" when they were purchased along with Phillipsborn.

Barnett said the Beyda shop on Connecticut Avenue will be replaced by the end of the summer with a store four time a larger at 1735 K St. NW. The Prince Georges Plaza and Tysons Corner stores will be remodeled in the next two years.

Barnett said he and Kass became friends when both worked for Lerner Stores Inc. above 15 years ago. Barnett had moved up on the merchanising side, working for Woodward and Lothrop, Hochschild-Kohn in Baltimore, and Casual Corner. Kass had gone from store manager to multi-store supervisor at Lerner, then into business for himself.

The two began negotiating with Outlet officials last August, shortly after plans to sell Beyda were announced. They took over management of the chain in January, and completed the purchase this week.

Outlet continues to operate the larger Phillipsborn chain, one of several similar women's wear operations it runs in eastern states. Phillipsborn and the other stores are all run from a central headquarters and have virtually identical merchandise.