The Hecht Co. yesterday announced plans to close two of its seven Baltimore stores.
Hecht's chairman, J. Warren Harris, said that as a result of disappointing returns, the company would close its Northwood and Reisterstown stores during August.
Despite heavy spending by Hecht's during the past few years to remodel and modernize them, "both Northwood and Reisterstown have continued for some time to produce sales volumes substantially below our expectations," Harris said.
A new Hecht's store at Owings Mills -- about a 10-minute drive from the older Reisterstown Mall store -- will be opening at the end of the July, Harris noted. The closest store to Northwood is in Towson, about 15 minutes away, Hecht officials said.
"Hecht's is repositioning itself," commented a retailing official who declined to be named. "It is choosing better locations and better facilities, near more upscale stores, such as Bamberger's and Saks Fifth Avenue," the official said. Both Bamberger's and Saks will be opening stores in Owings Mills.
"We put a total of about $5 million into these Northwood and Reisterstown stores to refurbish and refixture them," said Kenneth Winfield, Hecht's senior vice president for administration. "We found, though, that the customer just didn't respond. The customer today wants the option of a shopping mall where one can shop several stores at once to fill his or her needs." Northbrook, built in 1959, and Reisterstown, built in 1961, have far fewer stores than today's newer malls, Winfield pointed out.
Closing the stores was not a result of increased competition, Winfield said. "We've done well in Baltimore. We don't think competition is as tough as in Washington."
Employes at the two stores will be offered similar positions at other Hecht stores, the company said. Meanwhile, two major national retail chains already have signed up to fill the space Hecht is vacating. Hecht's declined to say which chains were coming in, saying that announcement would have to come from the incoming retailers.