W&J Sloane, once one of the area's dominant retailers of high-priced furniture, is leaving the Washington market at the end of this month.

Its last two remaining stores in Bethesda are holding a going-out-of business sale and will soon close their doors, following in the footsteps of the five other Sloane stores that were once in the area.

Sloane stores will remain open in California, New York and New Jersey, where the chain's new owner, John F. Lawhon Furniture Co., promises to continue operating 19 stores.

Lawhon completed its purchase of the 142-year-old Sloane chain last month, buying it from RB Industries, which in turn had purchased the chain from City Stores Co. a year earlier.

In selling the chain to RB Industries in 1984, City Stores did not transfer its leases for the Washington area stores. When the sale was final, Sloane closed its Seven Corners store as well as the upper Connecticut Avenue Clearance Center. Just six months earlier, Sloane had closed its downtwon store on Connecticut Avenue, saying it was part of a corporate redesign in which the Sloane stores would be made smaller and greater emphasis would be placed on personalized interior-decorating service.

Although RB Industries obtained the rights to continue operating the remaining two Bethesda stores and the Fairfax unit, the acquisition agreement gave City Stores the right to surrender the leases for those stores to the landlord or another company. Subsequently, the Fairfax store closed last November.

City Stores' sale of Sloane to RB Industries represented the end of an era for City Stores, which at one time owned a number of retail firms, including Franklin Simon women's wear stores.

In 1979, City Stores filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy act. Then, as part of its successful reorganization, it sold Franklin Simon and its other retail assets -- but not Sloane. Even so, Sloane continued to be a drain on the company, suffering from new competition from Bloomingdale's and other major department-store chains that were taking a more aggressive and contemporary approach to interior design.

With the sale of Sloane, City Stores -- which moved its headquarters from New York to Philadelphia -- has moved out of the retailing business entirely.