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Candace Renalls, Forum News Service, Published November 11 2013

Duluth store among first to sport redesign of Maurices

DULUTH, Minn. – Become stagnant and you’re in trouble, says George Goldfarb, who heads Maurices fast-growing chain of women’s clothing stores.

“It’s so important to keep your chain fresh,” Goldfarb said. “You always have to be doing new things.”

Fail to update, renovate and energize your stores, and it’ll affect sales, he says.

It’s why the Duluth-based company is investing $20 million to remodel its stores. And fittingly, its longtime Duluth store at Miller Hill Mall is among the first to get the makeover.

“First and foremost, we want to make it a great shopping experience for our customers,” the company president said during an interview last week. “We want it to be a fun, fashionable, exciting experience.”

The total, floor-to-ceiling remodel of the Duluth store took nearly two months, with each half of the store alternately shut down while work was done on the other half. The whole store closed for five days last week to complete the makeover.

“It really has the wow factor,” Laura Sieger, Maurices’ communications director, said of the store’s unveiling. “It’s uplifting, inspiring when people come into the store.”

The new design is based on studies and surveys of what Maurices’ target market – women ages 17 to 34, from petite to plus-size – want and find appealing.

Gone are the glass entry doors. Customers now enter through dramatic wood doors in Maurices’ signature azure color, which is similar to sky blue. The store’s look is sleek, modern and upbeat with new light fixtures, flooring, merchandise displays, focus areas, racks for its casual to dressy offerings and a layout that gives shoppers more room.

“The great décor pushes us up a notch,” said Monica Hendrickson, Maurices’ marketing director. “We added pops of color, an all-new exterior and interior. All fitting rooms have changed to be more of a conversational area. It’s a very open, casual, fun environment. It’s very different from what a lot of retailers have for fitting rooms.”

On Saturday afternoon, the store was bustling with shoppers. Many were regular customers who were enjoying the new layout and design.

“I like it,” said Danielle Jerome, 23, who was with a group of seven shoppers from Drummond. “I think the doors really bring people in, and it’s more spacious.”

Her 21-year-old sister, Rebecca, noticed the wider aisles.

“Before, the rows were too close together, but this is nice,” she said. “It’s easier to get around. It’s the same space, but it’s the way it’s laid out.”

Stephanie Burns of Thunder Bay, Ont., was glad to see the big round clothing racks gone.

“It’s not a modern look, and it doesn’t display well,” said Burns, 51, who shops Maurices for fashionable plus-size clothes when she visits Duluth. “I come when I want more variety.”

She liked the store’s greater “room to roam” and the new fitting rooms.

“They’re nice, and there’s a lot of them, so there’s no waiting,” she said.

So far, six existing Maurices stores have been remodeled at a cost of $200,000 each, and two dozen new stores sport the new design. By August, 80 Maurices stores in the United States and Canada will have the updated design and décor, Goldfarb said.