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No worries for Zumiez, West Acres' newest store

Zumiez opened Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, in Fargo's West Acres Shopping Center, 3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo. Ryan Johnson / The Forum1 / 2
A back wall in Zumiez' new store in Fargo's West Acres Shopping Center is filled with skateboard decks. Ryan Johnson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO—Even as a "retailpocalypse" prompted by a shift to online shopping wipes out other stores, Hailee England isn't worried about the new business she manages in West Acres Shopping Center.

The Fargo mall's newest retailer, Zumiez, opened Friday, Sept. 1, taking over the former Vanity space. The parent company of Vanity was headquartered in Fargo until it filed for bankruptcy protection this spring and closed more than 100 stores across the country.

Since December, West Acres has lost Aeropostale, The Limited, New York & Co., Wet Seal, Simply Mac and Family Christian stores, and Sears closed this spring.

Other major retailers, including Gap Inc., have announced restructuring plans that would close stores across America in response to changing shopping habits, though West Acres CEO Brad Schlossman said last week that he doesn't expect the mall's Gap or Gap Kids stores to be affected.

It's a trend happening across the country, but not to every retailer—and England said that's why she's not worried about Zumiez.

The brand started in 1978 with a single store in a Seattle-area shopping mall and now has more than 600 locations in north America. The West Acres store is the company's fourth in North Dakota, having already opened in Minot, Bismarck and Grand Forks.

England said Zumiez stays "ahead of the curve," a trait that has helped it expand while other national chains struggle.

"We're good at anticipating the change in customer needs and being there to support it as that changes," she said.

One example is the brand's "big" online presence, she said, which supplements rather than competes with its brick-and-mortar stores. Zumiez offers in-store ordering, so if customers can't find the right size or color or style of something, England can order it on the spot and have it shipped to their house.

As a brand, 70 percent of online orders are fulfilled by Zumiez stores, not distribution warehouses. That's another way she said local stores can offer good customer service, such as including stickers or a personalized note in the shipment.

"Those are things you're not going to get online in other places," she said.

England said Zumiez' look and customer base help it, too. The brand, which bills itself as an "action sports retailer," caters to skaters, snowboarders, longboarders and teens and young adults interested in the skating and music culture.

It also sells clothing and accessories to both men and women who tend to be 15 to 25 years old—another unique thing considering many mall stores only sell women's clothing, she said.

Nick Ward checked it out the first time on Monday, Sept. 11, because he needed new bearings on his skateboard. The 21-year-old North Dakota State University student said he was excited to see the mall's new option because he hasn't found a good local skate shop since moving from Minnesota.

"It's nice to have this here," he said.

England said modern shoppers, especially younger ones, are looking for the "coolest new thing"—and they want it immediately. If they can't find it in a store, they'll buy it online.

That's why she said Zumiez focuses on having a good team of experienced employees who can answer questions and make recommendations, providing a service that will get people through the doors who could just as easily shop on Amazon.

"We like to see people who shop in a store as the same people who shop online, and we're going to prioritize them in the same way," she said. "But if you walk into a Zumiez instead of buying online, you can get product knowledge on the brands you probably wouldn't have before."

Business profile

What: Zumiez

Where: West Acres Shopping Center, 3902 13th Ave. S.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday

Phone: (701) 282-2680

Online: www.zumiez.com

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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