Gabe, Rugged Wearhouse Labels in Play

ATLANTA Discount retailer Gabriel Brothers is looking for an agency to create campaigns for its Gabe and Rugged Wearhouse brands, the client confirmed.

The company said annual billings are $2-5 million. Consultant Dorinda Freeman is representing the Morgantown, W.V.-based merchant in conjunction with

The privately held company issued 12-15 invitations to agencies in the Southeast and East, according to Walter Holbrook, senior vice president of operations for the retailer. Pittsburgh incumbent Marmion will defend.

“We’re trying to see what the market could provide us in enhancing the brand,” said Holbrook, who joined the 60-year-old company 18 months ago from a 30-year career with Kmart.

An off-price discounter, Gabriel Brothers operates 34 apparel stores in five states with discounts of up to 70 percent, said Holbrook. Stores average 50,000 square feet in size. In recent years, the company has opened four to five locations annually.

“We operate opportunistically,” said Holbrook, who added that the company plans to expand beyond its Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia markets into the Southeast and Northeast, but only as desirable real estate becomes available. “We take that attitude towards our real estate—the best site at the best price. The more of those that come available, the more stores we’ll open.”

The retailer opened Rugged Wearhouse, which targets younger customers, in 1997. It operates 64 stores, adding 35 in the last 18 months, primarily in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, Holbrook said.

Ad spending was less than $500,000 in 2003, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

A cut to four or five finalists is expected by the end of January. A decision is expected March 1.