Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES — Ross Stores is marking its entry into the Atlanta market by opening two stores in Douglasville and Lawrenceville, Ga., on Saturday — the first of as many as 50 stores stores the country’s second largest off-pricer expects to open in the region by 2004.
Ross has said it plans to open three additional stores in metropolitan Atlanta by fall. Some 25 to 30 stores are slated to open in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina by 2002, and another 20 stores are slated to open in those states by 2004.
For now, a 32,628-square-foot Ross store will open in the Douglasville Pavilion at the intersection of I-20 and Chapel Hill Road. A 33,400-square-foot store will open at the Lawrenceville Market, at Highway 120 and Lawrenceville-Suwanne Road.
“It’s a very attractive market and we want to enter a new market to accelerate our top-line growth rate,” said Katie Loughnot, director of investor relations for the Newark, Calif.-based chain. Loughnot noted that there is a high density of Ross’s middle-income customers that reside in Atlanta. She added that with 53 stores in Florida and 32 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, Atlanta was a logical fill-in for the chain’s presence along the East Coast.
“By going to a new market it will allow us to target a new store-opening rate closer to 10 percent a year,” said Loughnot, noting Ross’s rate at which new stores are currently opening is currently about 5 to 8 percent a year.
Ross now operates 409 stores in 17 states. It is shooting for 650 units by the end of 2005, with some of those new stores slated for new markets. The locations of those markets have not yet been determined, said Loughnot.
Ross also plans to increase its total square footage by 10 percent in 2001 and an additional 10 percent in 2002.
The retailer has not yet announced its fiscal 2000 results but said sales were $2.7 billion for the year ended Feb. 3. Net income for the first nine months of 2000 was $106.5 million on sales of $1.9 billion for the same period.