Clothing retailer Maurices being sold to European private equity firm

The exterior of Maurices in the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth is seen in this file photo. Forum News Service
The exterior of Maurices in the Miller Hill Mall in Duluth is seen in this file photo. Forum News Service

DULUTH - A European private equity firm is buying Duluth-based Maurices.

OpCapita announced Monday, March 25, it is picking up a majority stake in the women’s apparel retailer, ending 14 years of ownership by Ascena Retail Group.

“Duluth has been our home for 88 years, and we look forward to remaining a pillar of this great community for years to come,” Maurices CEO George Goldfarb said in a statement. “Our vision remains the same — we will continue to do what is best for our brand, our culture and our business. We will do that with new ownership who will bring us fresh perspectives, capabilities and focus.”

“We believe there is a real opportunity to increase the profitability of Maurices through hands-on operational improvement,” Henry Jackson, CEO of OpCapita, said in a statement. “As we establish Maurices as an independent stand-alone company, we welcome the continued support of Ascena through their retained stake and the range of services they will provide.”

The $300 million sale is expected to close this summer. Goldfarb will stay on as CEO, while local employment levels are also expected to remain the same.

The former president of Gap, Jeff Kirwan, will be brought on as executive chairman to help boost sluggish sales.

“It is an honor to join Maurices upon the closing of the transaction as it embarks on this next phase of growth,” Kirwan said in a news release.

OpCapita, based in London and founded in 2006, is primarily invested in European retailers. It recently sold the German discount clothing giant NKD, which has 1,800 stores, after what OpCapita describes as a “successful turnaround.” The investment firm will be looking for a similar story at Maurices.

“We believe there is a real opportunity to increase the profitability of Maurices through hands-on operational improvement,” Henry Jackson, CEO of OpCapita, said in a statement.

Maurices has seen more comparable sales declines than increases over the past several years, and the brand has been shutting stores and shedding jobs since Ascena launched its “Change for Growth” corporate restructuring program several years ago.

In the middle of 2017, Maurices had more than 1,000 locations nationwide. At the beginning of February this year, there were 943 stores.

The retailer’s footprint will remain under review as Maurices maintains a “disciplined approach when managing the store portfolio,” according to a spokesman.

The sale will also keep Ascena as a minority shareholder, and the company will continue to provide services such as supply chain, tech support and other “back office functions.”

“As we establish Maurices as an independent stand-alone company, we welcome the continued support of Ascena through their retained stake and the range of services they will provide,” said OpCapita CEO Jackson.

Maurices was founded in Duluth in 1931.

Maurices has nine North Dakota locations, 10 in South Dakota and about 50 locations in Minnesota.