Byline: Carol Emert

WASHINGTON — With strong fashion for the budget-minded geared to grab market share from competitors, Target officially launched its ambitious expansion into the Mid-Atlantic market by opening two units in Virginia on Sunday.
The stores — a 117,000-square-foot unit in Fredericksburg and a 124,000-square-foot unit in Woodbridge — are the first of 24 stores Target expects to open in Virginia and Maryland before October.
In Woodbridge, where Target is about 1.5 miles north of the heavily shopped Potomac Mills mall, the discounter rang up sales of $178,000 on Sunday, but missed its goal of $250,000 for the day. Woodbridge is about 30 miles south of here.
However, Therese Walsh, an assistant team leader at the store, said sales exceeded plan for the first four days, including soft-opening business beginning last Thursday. The unit’s first-week volume goal is $950,000.
Angela Berry, an assistant team leader at the Fredericksburg unit, said her store met its sales plan, but she declined to specify results. Fredericksburg is about 25 miles south of Woodbridge on Interstate 95.
“We’re definitely happy with the turnout,” Berry said. “We had big crowds over the weekend.”
A division of Dayton Hudson Corp., Target is the third-largest discounter in the U.S., with 688 stores in 34 states, but it’s just beginning to push into the Northeast. The chain will add 13 stores in Maryland, 11 in Virginia and four in Buffalo, N.Y., among the 75 stores that it’s opening around the country this year.
Target also reportedly is eyeing the Philadelphia market and locations in New Jersey as its second step into the Mid-Atlantic.
The Mid-Atlantic expansion comes while regional chains are cutting back and struggling to generate sales. On Monday, Caldor announced plans to close 12 underperforming stores this summer while opening six units in existing markets. Bradlees also is shutting 12 stores by May, and Ames plans to close 17 stores this month. Bradlees and Caldor are in Chapter 11.
Apparel, accessories and footwear were prominently featured at both Target locations, getting about half the selling area.
“We knew apparel would take off, but it did better than we expected,” said Walsh, who attributed the success to a more effectively coordinated assortment.
Women’s merchandise included rayon challis print skirts, priced at $12.99; private label Sostanza linen pants in khaki, cream and black, $19.99, and private label Honors cotton polo shirts in a variety of colors, $9.99.
The leggings and looser-fitting cotton knit pants were priced at $9.99.
The Woodbridge store is a Target Greatland store, which has deeper assortments and wider aisles than typical Target units. The unit includes a large activewear department, offering nylon pants for $14.99 and nylon shorts marked down to $7.99 from $9.99, both by Moret. A Hanes Her Way crop top sold for $13.99.
The smaller Fredericksburg store also offered a wide assortment of apparel and gave more emphasis to juniors, maternity and plus sizes.
Retail observers said Target’s upscale approach to discounting is ideal for the region.
“I think Target is going to fit real well into most of the Baltimore-Washington market, because they are better-suited [than other discounters] for the more upscale demographics we have here,” said one real estate executive who asked not to be identified. The executive said his wife shops at Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, but also “is comfortable with the sportswear at Target.”
Target should get a boost from the Potomac Mills Mall, which draws 17 million shoppers a year and houses clearance stores for Saks, Barneys New York and Macy’s. It’s also well-positioned as the first store off a new I-95 exit ramp in Potomac Mills.
“The mall is the catalyst that creates most of the traffic in that area,” said another retail source. She noted that sales have been down at a Wal-Mart and a Sam’s Club in the area, while a nearby Kmart is not a “premier property.”
“The whole price structure of the marketplace has gotten so competitive that these stores are going to really have to compete to survive,” she said.

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