If Lord & Taylor manages to nab the stately site of Garfinckel's flagship store at the corner of 14th and F streets NW -- the upscale chain is reportedly much interested in the location -- the May Department Store Co.'s clout in the downtown retailing scene will become pretty hefty. The St. Louis-based May Co., owner of Lord & Taylor, also owns the Hecht Co., which has a huge store at 12th and G streets NW.

The financial success of that Metro Center branch of the mid-priced chain is the reason for the May Co.'s interest in putting down more roots in the District. Company executives predict there is a strong market for Lord & Taylor there, despite its similarity to the failed Garfinckel's in tone and merchandise. "It's just the difference between good and bad management," said one real estate executive close to the company.

And what will happen to the remaining eight Garfinckel's leases continues to provide cocktail chatter for Washington real estate types, retailers and other shopping observers. Some predictions: the Landover Mall site will go to Montgomery Ward; the Montgomery and Annapolis mall leases will be bought back by May Centers Inc., a real estate company partially owned by the May Co., for releasing; and the Spring Valley lease will go to a specialty-type retailer. No one knows much about Springfield Mall.

The other three leases are more troubled. The Georgetown Park and Connecticut Avenue NW sites have high-buck rents, since they are newer, and might go wanting for a little bit. And the Seven Corners Shopping Center is in the when-it-rains-it-pours category, since Garfinckel's and Woodward & Lothrop were the only two anchors, with a Lord & Taylor across the street. And -- here comes the storm -- Lord & Taylor is now negotiating to get out of that long-term lease as soon as possible. That leaves Woodies mighty lonely and Fairfax County politicians scrambling to do something fast.