Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads Inc., the retailer known for haute couture and haute prices, is preparing to start a new chain of stores aimed at the opposite end of the fashion spectrum.
The new stores will be called Size Mart and will offer discount prices on "half-size" clothes for large ladies, Chairman David Waters told Garfinckel's sotckholders yesterday.
Four or five Size Mart stores will be opened this year, "as the nucleus of a much larger chain," Waters reported.
Waters said the new venture will utilize "low-cost, economical-to-operate stores," permitting rapid expansion.
The decision to move into the discount end of the large size business apparently is based on the success of Garfinckel's recently acquired chain of Catherine's Stout Shops. Garfinckel's is opening 15 Catherine's a year and passed the 100 store mark earlier this year.
Size Mart will be the first new chain ever started by the Washington-based retail group, which has grown by buying existing chains or expanding its present operations.
Waters said Brooks Brothers, which recently opened an expanded store in downtown Washington, will soon announce plans for a store in Florida and is studying additional overseas units.
Brooks Brother has opened three stores in Japan in partnership with a Japanese firm and plans to add others in the city of Osaka, Waters said. Additional joint ventures with foreign companies are being considered in Australia and Latin America, he added.
While outlining some significant expansion plans, Waters said the corporation may have to "reexamine strategies and timetables' for its expansion because of economic conditions.
"We are now coping with a full blown recession," Waters said, warning that first quarter profits for the chain will be "off significantly" when the figures are reported in two weeks.
Waters said sales have slowed throughout the company's stores and inventories are increasing enough to cause concern.
"The next six to nine months will be difficult for the industry and for your company," he warned. "We are not being pessimistic, simply realistic."
"We cannot change the external economic forces and business conditions that now exist."
After the annual meeting, Garfinckel's board of directors declared the company's regular dividend of 32.5 cents a share payable June 27 to shareholders as of June 6 on common stock, plus the regular dividend on other shares.