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Business is booming for Duluth-based Maurices

A new activewear line. More plus-size offerings. Integrating online and store sales. Maurices officials point to recent initiatives like these as a reason the Duluth-based women's apparel chain continues to grow while some competitors falter. "In...

Working on a display
Christopher Olsen, brand presentation lead for Maurices, adjusts a display in the expanded plus-size section at Maurices’ mock store at its downtown Duluth headquarters. Maurices is expanding the plus-size section at its stores, with the layout, look and displays designed at the mock store. Among the first 40 stores to get the expanded offerings this month is its Duluth Miller Hill Mall store, which probably will unveil it on Wednesday. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)
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A new activewear line. More plus-size offerings. Integrating online and store sales.
Maurices officials point to recent initiatives like these as a reason the Duluth-based women’s apparel chain continues to grow while some competitors falter.
“Innovation and testing is a theme of ours,” said Laura Sieger, Maurices’ associate vice president of communications. And the chain’s fashions are constantly being evaluated and new ideas tested and implemented, she said.
Company president George Goldfarb may be partial, but a walk through Miller Hill Mall two weeks ago left him even more confident.
“We look very, very good,” he said of the Maurices store there and its product lines geared to women ages 17 to 34. “It’s the best in the mall.”
When he attended the board meeting of Ascena Retail Group, Maurices’ parent company, last week in New Jersey, Goldfarb was armed with good news.
Maurices profits were up 23 percent in the last quarter ending Jan. 24,, reaching a record
$29.2 million. And sales  were up nearly 12 percent  to $280 million in that second quarter that included the holiday shopping season.
“We’re really excited about our results,” Goldfarb said in a recent interview. “We knocked the cover off the ball.”
Leave out sales at its new stores and Maurices was an industry leader -  up 8 percent during the second quarter compared  to -  at best -  3 percent growth by competitors, he said.
“They’re really, really good stats,” Goldfarb said. “They’re top-tier results in the industry.”
And they were achieved in a soft retail climate and with continued holdups with port deliveries of merchandise, he noted.
He attributes those record-breaking quarter numbers to “great fashions,” an “outstanding holiday collection” and a “fantastic job” done by staff.
Among Maurices’ top sellers during the holidays was something new for the chain -  $10 stocking stuffers, including scarves, necklaces, belts and wristlets. An average of 700 of them were sold at each store, driving $7 million in sales, Sieger said.
10-year growth spurt

Then there’s the big picture -  substantial growth since Maurices chain of women’s clothing stores was acquired by the Ascena Retail Group (then called Dress Barn Inc.) 10 years ago. The publicly traded corporation, based in Mahwah, N.J., also owns Lane Bryant, Catherines and Justice clothing chains.
Since 2005, Maurices sales have grown more than 160 percent, topping $1 billion. The number of stores has doubled to more than 900 as 40 to 50 new stores open in the United States and Canada each year. Goldfarb believes Maurices could grow to more than 1,200 stores, including 100 or more in Canada. Currently there are 30. The number of employees -  which the company prefers to call “associates” - also has doubled in the past decade to about 8,700. And existing stores have been getting sleek, modern makeovers.
 As for online sales, they have grown from nonexistent to more than 10 percent of the chain’s business. And other eCommerce options such as Amazon and eBay are being tapped for added sales in addition to the company’s website.
“We’re proud of the momentum,” Goldfarb said.
Activewear, plus-size boost

More changes are underway in 2015.
In January, the company introduced inMotion, an activewear collection created by Maurices’ design team in New York City.
“It’s been very, very well-received,” Goldfarb said.
This month, Maurices is launching an expanded plus-size collection online and in 40 stores as a test. They include the Duluth store, where the expanded section will be unveiled this week.
“We feel it’s such an underserved market,” Goldfarb explained.
Maurices also is integrating its online and store sales. It allows online customers to make returns and exchanges at their stores. If an item isn’t in the store, the store can order it online and ship it for free to the store or to the customer’s home. The customer also can order items and have them shipped to the store.
“We’re trying to make it a seamless customer experience,” Goldfarb said. “We want to take out all the obstacles.”
With about 465 Maurices employees cramped in three connected downtown Duluth buildings that serve as the company’s headquarters, the need for the chain’s new $75 million, 11-story headquarters under construction downtown gets greater.
“We’re excited,” Goldfarb said. “In April, all the steel goes up. And floors seven to 11 will be enclosed in September.“
Construction of the building in the 400 block of West Superior Street, which started last year, is on target for spring 2016 occupancy.

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Related Topics: FASHION
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