The deal is done - Maurices is now owned by OpCapita, a private equity firm based in London.
The new owners officially took over Duluth's homegrown women's apparel retailer late Monday afternoon, prompting festivities at the Maurices headquarters on Superior Street.
"I couldn't ask for a better partner than OpCapita to really help drive this business forward," Maurices CEO George Goldfarb told employees who had gathered for champagne and cake. "In celebration of all the pages we've written, the chapters we've now closed and the exciting stories we have yet to write - to a new day, cheers."
OpCapita announced in March it would be paying $300 million for a controlling stake in Maurices, which Ascena Retail Group owned for the past 14 years. Ascena will continue to hold a minority stake in the business and provide a variety of business services.
The News Tribune asked Goldfarb and OpCapita, which specializes in "transforming operationally underperforming businesses," what the future holds for the 88-year-old retailer.
News Tribune: When the sale was announced, OpCapita CEO Henry Jackson talked about 'hands-on operational improvement.' Do you have a sense of what that will look like?
Goldfarb: We are thrilled with the additional resources and expertise OpCapita is already bringing to the table. They have a depth of experience in areas such as sourcing, inventory management and e-commerce with fresh eyes to help us look at our business with new perspective. Additionally, they are bringing in experienced project managers in several areas to help us stay focused on the business while the new initiatives are executed.
News Tribune: What interests/excites you about OpCapita's experience with retail and the possibilities they bring?
Goldfarb: I'm especially excited about some of the new potential partnerships they are bringing to the table that will help us to reduce our product costs while maintaining our quality and value. They have relevant experience turning around consumer and retail businesses across Europe that we will leverage.
News Tribune: What initiatives will you be continuing and/or starting as a result of new ownership?
Goldfarb: We have several initiatives in motion this spring from which we are already seeing positive sales momentum. We have made changes to our assortment architecture, delivering more fashion and trend, with a greater commitment to being in stock with those items, as well as basic programs. We are also strengthening our loyalty program, leaning further into social media and e-commerce strategies, and giving our customer more of what she wants based on recent customer insights work.
OpCapita has identified several clear opportunities with sourcing being paramount and already underway.
News Tribune: How has the Maurices team received the news, and what will the transition look and feel like for the 360 employees at the Duluth headquarters?
Goldfarb: Our associates are genuinely excited about the opportunity and our new partners. They are happy to have a singular focus around our brand and evolve it to the next level.
News Tribune: Have you been in contact with new board president Jeff Kirwan, and has he shared any ideas about the company's future?
Goldfarb: Yes, Jeff and I connect frequently and he's been out visiting our stores to learn from our field team, interact with customers and truly get to know our business.
Jeff has a wealth of experience and a very strong retail background from Target, Old Navy and most recently, the Gap. He brings new ideas and fresh challenges.
News Tribune: How will Maurices retain or perhaps even strengthen its ties to Duluth under new ownership?
Goldfarb: Maurices will remain headquartered in Duluth and will continue its commitment to being a strong community partner through philanthropic support as well as community engagement and leadership, as several of our associates serve on local boards and volunteer their time. And we will continue to give back locally through our 'Best Day Ever.'
News Tribune: What attracted OpCapita to Maurices?
OpCapita: Maurices is a compelling opportunity in the U.S. retail market with clear parallels to other OpCapita investments. The business is a strong growth platform from which to apply the operational improvement strategies we have successfully implemented in the past.
News Tribune: What changes have been discussed to improve the company's performance? What in general are moves that can be taken to improve profitability, and what are some lessons OpCapita is bringing from past investments?
OpCapita: OpCapita's strategy for Maurices will be similar to that employed in the successful turnaround of NKD, with a focus on optimizing sourcing, merchandising and inventory management. Stated simply, our goal is to offer our customers the right product at the right price.
News Tribune: How might operations at the Duluth headquarters change, especially in terms of staffing levels?
OpCapita: Maurices will continue to be headquartered in Duluth, and we look forward to working collaboratively with the team there. We have been delighted by the positive response we have received from the team regarding our involvement in the business.
News Tribune: What can Maurices do to better compete online?
OpCapita: Online is an increasingly relevant channel for customers, and we look forward to capitalizing on the significant opportunities for omni-channel customer engagement.