Two nationally known, high-priced retailers -- Neiman-Marcus Co. and Henri Bendel -- appear close to signing deals to open new stores in the Washington metropolitan area.
Neiman-Marcus, the posh Dallas retailer that already has one store in Northwest Washington, hopes to add another at the Tysons II shopping center under construction.
Local retailing executives say the company is on the verge of signing an agreement with the developer of Tysons II to become the third anchor in the mall, along with R.H. Macy & Co. and Saks Fifth Avenue. Once the deal is signed, it would take about two years to build the store.
Meanwhile, New York's exclusive Bendel's also is eying Washington as part of a move to expand the well-known store across the country.
Purchased by The Limited Inc. -- the nation's largest specialty-store chain -- two years ago, Bendel's is "real close" to signing leases in Washington, Chicago and Atlanta to open stores in mid-1989, according to a recent interview Bendel's new president Mark Schulman gave Women's Wear Daily.
Schulman declined to return phone calls to elaborate on Bendel's plans here. Real estate officials here said Bendel's is negotiating with Tysons Corner Shopping Center, across Rte. 123 from the Tysons II mall. The 19-year-old Tysons Corner center is being expanded to accommodate at least two new large stores, including Nordstrom Inc., the Seattle-based retailer scheduled to open its first store here next year.
It was unclear if Bendel's was negotiating with other developers. However, real estate officials said it was clear that Bendel's planned to build a much larger store than its only existing unit, the New York store that has 14,000 square feet of selling space.
Neiman-Marcus officials were reluctant to discuss their negotiations with Tysons II.
"All the details are not confirmed," company spokesperson Jan Roberts said. Company chairman Richard Marcus "is handling it personally" and was out of town and could not be reached for comment, Roberts added.
Similarly, Tysons II officials declined to comment, saying it was premature to discuss the third anchor until the store moving in had a chance to announce it.
A new Neiman-Marcus store and the arrival of Bendel's to the area would certainly intensify the highly competitive retailing industry here, which -- already nervously awaits the arrival of Nordstrom's and Macy's to the Tysons area.
Nordstrom's, a highly regarded Seattle retailer known for its customer service, is slated to open its first store in March 1988 in the expanded Tysons Corner center and another in the new Pentagon City mall a year later.
The well-known and aggressive Macy's, which already has a store in nearby Anne Arundel County, moves closer to the area when it opens its store in Tysons II about a year from now. It is also building a store in the Pentagon City mall.
Probably nowhere will the competition among retailers be more intense than in the Tysons Corner area, which will have more large stores and specialty shops than any other section of Washington with the arrival of Bendel's and Neiman-Marcus.
Tysons II has been actively searching for a third major store to be part of its three-store, 1 million-square-foot mall, called the Galleria, for some time.
Similarly, Neiman-Marcus has been weighing opening a second store since before it opened its first store here, on Wisconsin and Western avenues, in November 1977.
Just days before that store opened, Richard Marcus discussed plans to open another store in Virginia. However, disappointing sales at the first store for the first few years and then a downturn in the economy kept those plans at bay until now.
The increased competition comes at a critical time for Garfinckel's, which is about to be taken over by Raleighs Store Corp.
Garfinckel's parent company, Campeau Corp., is selling the chain for $95 million to help reduce the debt it incurred when it bought Garfinckel's then-parent firm Allied Stores Corp. for $3.5 billion last year.