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7. Millipore Corp.
8. Talbots Inc.
9. Cytyc Corp.
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The Boston Globe OnlineBoston.com Boston Globe Online / Business / 2001 Globe 100

Talbots chief Arnold B. Zetcher
'It was a year to remember,' says Talbots' CEO, Arnold B. Zetcher, shown in the Boylston Street store in Boston. (Globe File Photo)

In this case, it pays to ignore the trends


Top 10 Companies

1. Teradyne Inc.
2. Analog Devices Inc.
3. LTX Corp.
4. EMC Corp.
5. Helix Tech. Corp.
6. ACT Manufacturing
7. Millipore Corp.
8. Talbots Inc.
9. Cytyc Corp.
10. FleetBoston

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ive middle-age women the fashion choices they want, and they will reward a retailer handsomely. Such was the case in 2000 for Talbots of Hingham, which sells classically styled apparel in stores, through catalogs, and over the Internet.

''It was a year to remember,'' said chairman and chief executive Arnold B. Zetcher. ''The merchandise was absolutely right on. Our customers loved what we were offering.''

A key to Talbots' success is listening closely to customers and not paying much heed to the fashion bulletins from Paris.

Conventional wisdom suggests that working women 35 and older have lost patience with fashion. In this view, casual Friday has made them more likely to spend money on home furnishings and minivans than on a wardrobe that isn't marked 20 percent off.

Besides, who has the time to fritter away precious hours browsing department stores that carry a wide array of designer-label items that don't always mix and match?

But give women something that won't go quickly out of style and provide them with one-stop shopping, and they will not only buy, they will pay full price.

For a retailer, full-price sales can translate into big profits that boost a company's stock. Last year, Talbots' profits nearly doubled, to $115.2 million, on sales of about $1.6 billion.

A few years ago, Talbots attempted to widen its customer base by offering more youthful styles. But instead of attracting women ages 25 to 35, the retailer managed to alienate some of the middle-age women who had been its best customers.

Since returning to its roots, Talbots has boomed. An ambitious expansion plan is underway, and one experiment calls for testing a men's line, possibly late next year.



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