Hechinger Co. announced yesterday that it will open five stores in North Carolina, the farthest the home improvement center chain has yet ventured from its Washington base.

Hechinger will open in Winston-Salem in February and will add two more North Carolina stores early next year, President John Hechinger and Chairman Richard England said.

Until now, all Hechinger stores have been located within 200 miles of the company's Landover distribution center, a limit the company has said was set by the cost of shipping goods.

A new computerized freight management system and improved materials handling techniques "will lower the cost of transporting merchandise, enabling the company to significantly expand its marketing area," Hechinger said.

Neither executive would specify how far the steadily expanding retail chain has moved its horizon, but England suggested a 400- to 500-mile radius could be served from the Prince George's County facility.

"I really don't think there is a limit," England said. "At some point we'll probably want to establish another distribution center somewhere else."

Counting two stores opened recently in Columbia and the southern suburbs of Philadelphia, there are 34 Hechinger stores. The company has announced a goal of adding 12 more stores in the Philadelphia area; those units plus the five North Carolina stores would expand the chain to 51.

Last week the company announced plans to enlarge its central distribution center by 25 percent, providing the capacity to handle 55 stores.

The major expansion push by Hechinger comes at a time when most retailers are moving cautiously because of the recession. The do-it-yourself business has remained strong, Hechinger pointed out, because homeowners who can't afford to move are fixing up their old houses.

For the first half of 1982, Hechinger sales increased to $121.9 million from $109 million and profits climbed to $5 million (54 cents a share) from $4 million (43 cents) last year.

The first Hechinger unit in North Carolina will be in a Winston-Salem building previously occupied by King's Department Stores, a Massachusetts discount chain that recently filed for reorganization in bankruptcy and closed many of its units.

Hechinger already had been researching the North Carolina market, enabling the chain to react quickly to the opportunity to pick up existing properties. Buying and remodeling an existing store is usually cheaper than building a new one from scratch. Taking over a lease from a chain in bankruptcy also can mean lower rents.

Hechinger said the company is negotiating for two other existing stores, which it hopes to remodel and open by next April.

He did not identify the locations, but said the company plans stores in Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh.

The move into North Carolina will put Hechinger into head-to-head competition with Lowe's Companies, a Carolina-based chain that is also a major building materials retailer.

While the two handle some similar product lines, Lowe's counts heavily on business with small home builders and professional contractors, while Hechinger stores are aimed strictly at do-it-yourselfers.

The five North Carolina stores will be financed from existing operations and cash raised by a stock offering two years ago, Hechinger said. Hechinger Opening 5 N.C. Stores By Jerry Knight Washington Post Staff Writer

Hechinger Co. announced yesterday that it will open five stores in North Carolina, the farthest the home improvement center chain has yet ventured from its Washington base.

Hechinger will open in Winston-Salem in February and will add two more North Carolina stores early next year, President John Hechinger and Chairman Richard England said.

Until now, all Hechinger stores have been located within 200 miles of the company's Landover distribution center, a limit the company has said was set by the cost of shipping goods.

A new computerized freight management system and improved materials handling techniques "will lower the cost of transporting merchandise, enabling the company to significantly expand its marketing area," Hechinger said.

Neither executive would specify how far the steadily expanding retail chain has moved its horizon, but England suggested a 400- to 500-mile radius could be served from the Prince George's County facility.

"I really don't think there is a limit," England said. "At some point we'll probably want to establish another distribution center somewhere else."

Counting two stores opened recently in Columbia and the southern suburbs of Philadelphia, there are 34 Hechinger stores. The company has announced a goal of adding 12 more stores in the Philadelphia area; those units plus the five North Carolina stores would expand the chain to 51.

Last week the company announced plans to enlarge its central distribution center by 25 percent, providing the capacity to handle 55 stores.

The major expansion push by Hechinger comes at a time when most retailers are moving cautiously because of the recession. The do-it-yourself business has remained strong, Hechinger pointed out, because homeowners who can't afford to move are fixing up their old houses.

For the first half of 1982, Hechinger sales increased to $121.9 million from $109 million and profits climbed to $5 million (54 cents a share) from $4 million (43 cents) last year.

The first Hechinger unit in North Carolina will be in a Winston-Salem building previously occupied by King's Department Stores, a Massachusetts discount chain that recently filed for reorganization in bankruptcy and closed many of its units.

Hechinger already had been researching the North Carolina market, enabling the chain to react quickly to the opportunity to pick up existing properties. Buying and remodeling an existing store is usually cheaper than building a new one from scratch. Taking over a lease from a chain in bankruptcy also can mean lower rents.

Hechinger said the company is negotiating for two other existing stores, which it hopes to remodel and open by next April.

He did not identify the locations, but said the company plans stores in Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh.

The move into North Carolina will put Hechinger into head-to-head competition with Lowe's Companies, a Carolina-based chain that is also a major building materials retailer.

While the two handle some similar product lines, Lowe's counts heavily on business with small home builders and professional contractors, while Hechinger stores are aimed strictly at do-it-yourselfers.

The five North Carolina stores will be financed from existing operations and cash raised by a stock offering two years ago, Hechinger said.