The retailer sells casual, work and dressy clothes for women in sizes 0-24, as well as on-trend shoes and accessories for every occasion, including hats, jewelry, scarves and sunglasses. maurices is known for its collections, particularly its denim assortment. Some of its current collection themes are “World Festival” and “Urban Explorer.”
“We offer fashionable attitude – from core to plus-size – and serve multiple lifestyles, from head to toe,” he says.
maurices operates in primarily small to mid-sized markets, including outlying suburban metro areas. “Smaller markets are underserved,” Goldfarb says. “Some shoppers have to drive 30 to 60 miles or more to stores. We’re filling in that gap. It’s a great niche for us.”
The retailer is also investing in a new 11-story headquarters in downtown Duluth, scheduled to be completed in spring 2016. The building will house the more than 425 associates who work at headquarters and provide room for maurices’ continued growth. The 200,000-square-foot structure is the largest downtown commercial development in the city’s history. “We are so proud to be building our new headquarters right here in downtown Duluth, Minnesota, which we’ve called home since 1931,” Goldfarb says. “That’s more than 83 years in one city through ownership changes, acquisitions and becoming part of a publically traded company. We love this city and the people we are able attract, retain and call partners.”
Minnesota’s Star-Tribune has named maurices a Top 100 Workplace in the state for the past three years in a row. The newspaper conducts an annual survey of more than 58,000 employees at nearly 2,000 organizations about organizational health, job expectations and employee engagement. The company was also rated one of the “Top Ten Best Employers in Retail” by Forbes.com in 2011. “We encourage associates at all levels to be leaders,” Goldfarb says. “Communication is more bottom up than top down.”
“We are performance-driven and attribute our success to our people, and our caring, family culture. We have a great organizational development department and training is a big priority for us,” he says. “I see too many companies – especially during tough times, which a lot of retailers are going through – throw out training programs first thing, but it should be the last thing.”
The chain is growing, with a store count of 925 at the end of its fiscal year in July. It hit the milestone of 900 stores this past March with a new store in Fresno, Calif. – its 13th store in the state. maurices operates in 46 states as well as Canada, a market it entered about two-and-a-half-years ago. In the past five years, the company has opened more than 250 stores and has experienced 65 percent sales growth. It plans to reach 1,200 stores domestically and 100 stores in Canada in the next five years.
Online sales account for about 10 percent of the total business, and Goldfarb expects that number to reach 20 percent in the same five-year time frame. “We have an omni-channel philosophy,” he says. “We want to provide her with what she wants, how she wants it.” The majority of store product is available online, and some product online is exclusively so.
Strength in Numbers
E. Maurice Labovitz founded the company in 1931 with a single store in Duluth. Today, maurices is a subsidiary of Ascena Retail Group, Inc. It is one of five Ascena apparel brands that include Catherines, Lane Bryant, dressbarn and Justice. In total, Ascena operates more than 3,800 store locations and generates more than $4.5 billion in annual revenue.
“We are five distinctive brands,” Goldfarb says. “Ascena takes the approach of ‘you operate the business and we’ll support you’.” Therefore, there’s limited sharing in terms of product, he says, but “there’s tremendous leveraging power in terms of back office functions, distribution and fulfillment, which you couldn’t do as a standalone brand.”
For example, all Ascena brands will begin using a new state-of-the-art distribution center – which will have high-speed sorting systems and robotics – in Etna, Ohio, when construction is completed later this year. Consolidation will help all the brands when it comes to reducing transportation costs and streamlining logistics.
Goldfarb has served as president of maurices since 2011. He has been at the company for more than 25 years and led the company in a variety of roles, including executive vice president, chief operating officer, senior vice president and chief financial officer.
In his current role, Goldfarb oversees all aspects of maurices’ operations, including its top-tier industry profitability. During his leadership, maurices added the back-office financial functions for more than 2,500 store locations under the Ascena brands.
The company’s chief merchandising officer is Erin Stern, who joined maurices in 2013. She also holds the post of executive vice president. Stern is responsible for merchandising, design and the maurices brand. She works in design, marketing, visual and stores to develop and deliver differentiating, seamless customer experiences.
Stern has more than two decades of retail experience. Prior to joining maurices, she was chief merchant officer for Juicy Couture, and prior to that, president of bebe Sport. She spent the majority of her career with GAP Inc., in the Old Navy division, where she held senior leadership roles across multiple product categories.
Giving back is one way that maurices shows its commitment to customers, the communities it serves and its associates. maurices’ philanthropic vision is built around empowering women and children to be their best.
Its priority areas include health and wellness, education, professional opportunities, self-esteem, basic needs and community improvement. The company donates about $8.5 million to charities a year.
Additionally, maurices provides scholarships, matching gifts for volunteer hours and crisis support to its associates.
It’s also committed to downtown Duluth, which its headquarters have called home for more than 80 years. This past February, maurices announced it would donate one of its current headquarters buildings to the University of Minnesota Duluth once the company moves into its new headquarter building upon completion two years from now. The university plans to use the four-story, 75,000-square-foot building for classrooms, offices and conferences.
“We are committed to a vibrant and thriving downtown,” Goldfarb says, “and we chose to donate this building to bring higher education and the business community together in a downtown setting. Partnerships between education and business are essential.”