Xerox Corp., capitalizing on the trend among small businesses toward computerization and automation, opened its first two Xerox Stores in the Washington area last week.

The 31st and 32nd stores by Xerox nationwide, the outlets here carry small business computers, packaged software, calculators, dictating equipment, telephone answering machines and a wide variety of other office products.

"More than half the businesses in the Washington area are small businesses with 20 or fewer employes," noted Michael Fleming, Xerox vice president for business products. "These firms have the greatest need for improved productivity and efficiency. The Xerox Store's main purpose will be to help them meet these requirements," he said.

The two new stores, at Wintergreen Shopping Plaza in Rockville and at Westfair Center in Fairfax, offer both Xerox and non-Xerox products, including Apple Computer, Casio, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Sanyo and Sharp.

The first Xerox Store was opened in Dallas in April 1980. Fleming predicted the opening of about 10 more stores this year, including one in the Tysons Corner area. Corporate planners at Xerox have projected the establishment of 500 stores by the end of 1985, he said.

The idea of small-computer retail stores is not new. The concept was pioneered in the Baltimore-Washington corridor by Computers Etc., based in Towson and still the area's largest computer retailer.

"The big companies have finally realized what we knew back in 1977," said Computers Etc. founder and President David W. Egli. "For savings of 30 to 50 percent, individuals and small businesses will drive, walk or crawl into a computer retailer."

Computers Etc., an "old-timer in the microcomputer industry," has expanded rapidly in the region, with stores in Silver Spring, Annapolis and Towson. Its Springfield store recently was recognized as one of the top ten computer retailers nationally by Datamation, a computer technology magazine. The company also has stores in France and South Africa, and has an exclusive government contract with the General Services Administration to provide Apple, Cromemco, Seequa, Osborne and other computers to federal agencies.

"Computers replacing people is a common misconception," Egli said. "They don't. They make people more productive." Another major benefit of computers to small businesses, according to Egli, is that they "allow for all your information to be handled internally, instead of farming out various administrative tasks to outside professionals."

The boom in computer retailing, the market for which is about five years old, was created "when the price for a machine that can handle inventory, payroll and accounting, general ledger, financial projections and word processing became so low that even a two-man operation can afford one and justify its cost," Egli said.

Computers Etc. shares the ambitious optimism of Xerox and others such as IBM. They anticipate the opening of more than 100 affiliated stores by 1985. Business outside the country has been strong, Egli said.

"The cheapest way to market an inexpensive computer is through a retail store," said Egli's partner, David Gardner. "Let the customer come to you. The big companies only enter a market when it's proven."