For as long as the memory of living peoplekind runneth backward, Woodward & Lothrop has called its flagship the Downtown store. Shop Downtown between stated hours, the ads always said.

Last week, they stopped saying that. Now it's not the Downtown store, but the Metro Center store. One ad in this paper a few days ago splashed those words across a full-page ad proclaiming some special bargains: "Metro Center Only."

Edwin K. Hoffman, Woodies' chairman, said the name change idea came from someone in the store's marketing division, and he agreed with it. "Rather than just saying the Downtown store, we realize we sit right on top of Metro Center subway station . We're going to make all the brownie points we can on this."

Actually, Woodies was the first, and so far only, major department store with a direct entry from a Metro station, and it has paid off.

Hoffman is happy to share the benefits. He said he will suggest that the 950-room hotel to be built north of his store, in a joint venture with developers, should include Metro Center in its name. And he said he hopes the rival Hecht Co., when it moves from Seventh and F streets and opens its store now being built at 12th and G diagonally across from Woodies, will incorporate Metro Center in its name, too.